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A proposed law in Indiana would increase the penalties for killing police K9s



Indianapolis, Indiana – A measure in Indiana aims to increase the fine for killing police animals.

A Fishers Police K9 was shot and died in November 2019 while being pursued by a dangerous suspect. The author of the bill claimed the occurrence was the inspiration for his idea.

Killing a police animal currently constitutes a Category 6 felony.

“You could steal a police K9 and it’s a level 6 felony. And if you kill it, it’s also a level six felony,” Republican State Rep. Chris Jeter said. “Which to me did not seem proportional. So this bill just really moves it up to a level 5 [felony].”

According to Jeter, the present sentence for the offense is too light. The offense would become a Class 5 felony, punishable by one to six years in prison, under House Bill 1306. In a Category 6 felony, the sentence would increase from the present six months to two years.

K9 Harlej of the Fishers Police Department was killed in the line of duty after initiating a police chase and snaring the culprit, who already had a serious criminal past. Officer Jarred Koopman, Harlej’s handler, believes that those police canines slain in the line of duty should receive greater justice.

“We always say in the canine world, we use those dogs so the handler can go home safe to their families, so other people in the department can go home safe to their families,” Koopman said. “The fact that at the end of the day when I deployed Harlej, and he was killed in the line of duty, he saved a lot of lives, including mine.”

After Harlej was killed, the community showed its support, according to Rep. Jeter. This gave him the idea for the bill.

“Our communities value these canines as police officers, and that’s how we should treat them,” he said.

Critics worry that changing criminal penalties will throw the rest out of balance. Jeter stated that he thinks it is more acceptable to downgrade the punishment from a Level 6 felony to a Level 5 felony rather than to a Level 2 felony.

“I think the uphill battle that you run into is people still view them as just animals, where we as police officers see them as a member of our department,” Koopman said.

Koopman declared that he is still appreciative of Harlej.

“I’ll get emotional talking about it still to this day,” he said. “The most overwhelming feeling that I get is just a sense of pride because 99% of what we do is train for the one instance where we do need a canine in a situation like that. Knowing that he did everything he was trained to do and allowed me to go home to my kids, I take a lot of pride in it.”

With a vote of 89-8, the bill was already approved in the House. It will now be considered by the Senate.

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