BY SUE WEBBER
A rarely-given Police Department Departmental Commendation was presented to Joe and Rhonda Meath at the May 9 Rogers City Council meeting.
The couple, residents of Marine on St. Croix, donated $12,900 to Rogers for its new K-9 program.
“We appreciate this greatly and thank you for your generosity,” Mayor Rick Ihli said.
Spitz, an 18-month-old German Shepherd, is the city’s new K-9. He has embarked on a 12-week training period with his handler, Rogers Police Officer Blake Neumann.
The dog, bred in Europe, is being trained through McDonough K-9, based in Anoka. Dogs trained for the K-9 program act as a second police officer, especially during building searches and traffic stops, Police Chief Jeff Beahen said earlier. Spitz is being trained in tracking, apprehension and searching for drugs.
In a letter to the Meaths, Beahen expressed “extreme gratitude … for this invaluable tool for our department. Our city is indebted to your family for this amazing gift,” the letter said.
In part, the commendation said, “The City of Rogers Police Department identified a need for a police canine unit, as part of a concerted effort to respond to the growing opiate epidemic and increased use of illicit drugs in and around the city of Rogers. Faced with ever-increasing demands on our budget, this simply was not within our current financial means.”
The Meath family offered to donate the entire cost of the police service dog and the 12 weeks of training.
“This legacy donation will allow a city and its police department to become far better equipped to address the immediate and future needs of our growing community,” the commendation said. “Their willingness to assist a community that they don’t even reside in illustrates their giving nature and understanding of the impact that their donation will have on the overall safety of our city.”
The Meaths are 2014 lottery winners who have chosen to use part of their winnings to benefit law enforcement needs. According to website accounts, Joe, 56, grew up in Red Wing and is retired from Xcel Energy. Rhonda, 54, is a native of White Bear Lake and a longtime waitress at the Lake Elmo Inn. She raises and shows German Shepherd dogs and also volunteers with the St. Paul Police K-9 Federation. The couple has four grown children, three grandchildren and three dogs.
Two additional donations to the K-9 program from local businesses were acknowledged at an earlier City Council meeting. Veit and Co. donated $5,000. Burda Towing Co. donated $500.
In commemoration of Police Week in the month of May, Beahen told the City Council the Wilkins family of Rogers has, for the third consecutive year, created individual care packages for each of the city’s police officers, including Spitz, the department’s canine.
Each small brown paper gift bag, tied with blue ribbon, contains a prayer that “God will keep you in his care,” and – except for Spitz’s bag — contains a variety of items, including Gatorade, lip balm, and licorice, Beahen said.
Beahen, who is president of Minnesota’s Law Enforcement Memorial Association, said a vigil was scheduled for May 15 at the State Capitol, to honor Minnesota police officers who have died in the line of duty.