Published June 20. 2013 2:00PM Updated June 21. 2013 9:27PM
New London — Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio announced Thursday the retirement of one of the city's police dogs and the donation of another to a different police department.
Finizio said K-9, "Buck," who is suffering from arthritis, will be retired from active service. The city has been providing appropriate medication and care for Buck, who pursuant to the police department union contract will become the personal property of his handler at no cost to the handler, Officer John Michaud.
"Buck has served the city well and will go to a good and loving home," said Finizio in a statement. "The city must balance law enforcement needs with financial and physical realities. If a K-9 is having significant health issues a retirement is a proper way to ensure the dog gets the rest, care and lifestyle it has earned and deserves."
The move, countered police union President Todd Lynch — the city's only remaining dog handler — was politically motivated and a setback for an already demoralized police department.
"It's despicable that politics is being played in effectively policing our city," said Lynch. "This is vengeful retaliation against me and it continues to show the lack of experience in policing that the mayor has."
Lynch has a pending lawsuit against the city and Police Chief Margaret Ackley, alleging that Ackley has punished him for being an outspoken critic.
He said the program at one point had four dogs, two donated by Finizio's former political rival Michael Buscetto, who also ran for mayor; one the city bought; and the other Lynch brought with him when he retired from the state police.
Finizio called Lynch's claim that he is playing politics "absolutely untrue."
Lynch said Buck's retirement was unnecessary as the union has received thousands of dollars in donations to help pay for Buck's medication.
Finizio also announced Thursday that another K-9, "Bessie," whose handler left the department, will be donated to another law enforcement agency promptly and will be properly cared for until that transfer occurs.
Finzio said the city has an active K-9 unit still in service and has met all union contract requirements for the maintenance of a K-9 program.
According to the police union contract, the department is required to have at least one canine.
The city, he added, benefits from mutual aid agreements with surrounding municipalities and the state police for any additional K-9 needs such as bomb sniffing detection, arson sniffing, narcotics searches and tracking.
Finizio wrote in an April 19, 2012 memo to City Councilor Adam Sprecace that the police department K-9 program disproportionately targets racial minorities and that cutting it could save the city at least $100,000 in fiscal year 2012-2013.
On Thursday the mayor reiterated the administration's longstanding public position that the services of biting dogs are not necessary in a modern policing environment.
"We have a K-9 unit in our PD, we can get mutual aid for tracking and detection K-9 services whenever needed, but I hold firm in my opinion that there is no demonstrable law enforcement need whatsoever for a police department in a diverse and progressive city to employ the use of biting dogs in law enforcement," his statement said.