Insurance agency gives back to Valley PD

Published 5:46 pm Wednesday, April 24, 2019

VALLEY — A local insurance agency lent a helping hand to the Valley Police Department Wednesday.

Keith Blackman of the Blackmon Insurance Group, under the Country Financial Insurance umbrella, donated $1,500 as part of Country’s Operation Helping Heroes.

Blackmon presented a large check to the Valley Police Chief Tommy Weldon, Lt. Sandra Crim and K9 Officer Lawrence Howell outside of the Valley Police Department Wednesday.

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“The Valley Police Department K9 depends on receiving community donations, and we are pleased to support them,” Blackmon said in a news release. “County Financial is proud to assist our first responders, active duty military and veterans through Operation Helping Heroes donations in the communities we serve.”

Blackmon said the program started in 2015 by Country, and it’s a way to let people know that the insurance agency is involved in the community.

“The majority of my clients live in the area, and we are a hometown agency trying to help out,” he said Wednesday.

Weldon said having a K9 is a big deterrent to drug use and the Valley Police Department is using the dogs in schools to detect illegal drugs.

He said the Chambers County Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Task Force uses K9s to locate drugs on search, and patrol officers use them when they believe drugs are present to warrant probable cause. Valley’s K9, “Goose,” is also trained in tracking, Weldon said. The department has used Goose to apprehend fleeing suspects or if somebody has wandered away from home.

“He is a great asset to our department,” he said.

VPD purchased Goose from the drug task force when his handler left the force.

The police department teamed with the Chambers County School District to buy the dog and both entities share in the cost of training.

Weldon said a minimum cost for food, medical bills and training for the dog is a couple thousand dollars. However, Goose’s handler K9 Officer Lawrence Howell attends several conferences a year, which bumps the cost up to about $4,000 to $5,000 a year, he said.

“We budget some funding for operations, but anytime we get donations, we try to add it to offset the cost of vet bills and training aids,” Weldon said.

When Goose is off-duty, he spends his time in the backyard of Howell.

He’s a Belgian Shepherd and Malinois mix, so he spends most of his time outside, Howell said.

“He is at my house day and night like one of my kids,” he said.

Goose and Howell have been together four years and during the day, they are co-workers and at night, Goose is a pet.

“We load in the morning, and he knows it’s time to go to work, and when we get home, he gets out in the backyard,” Howell said.  “He’s just a dog then.”

Goose turned six years old on April 20 and as long as he stays healthy and can do the job, Howell said he’ll remain on the force. He said he’s seen police dogs last 10 to 12 years in the field.