Round Lake Park District officers dog focus of upcoming debate
Round Lake Area Park District Ranger police officer Terry Kaminski has teamed with his German shepherd, Nadja, to help locate missing children, search for firearms and perform other law-enforcement tasks.
Unlike traditional police dogs, Nadja is Kaminski's personal pet and isn't property of the park district. Kaminski has been responsible for Nadja's training and upkeep.
And for park district officials, that may be a problem.
On Thursday, the park board is going to discuss whether to buy liability insurance to cover Nadja or if Kaminski should cover that cost, estimated to be thousands of dollars a year.
If the board opts not to insure the 3-year-old dog, Kaminski said he will retire Nadja from public service.
He hopes it doesn't come to that.
"I believe this is what I was meant to do — to help people with Nadja," Kaminski said.
Kaminski's family got Nadja as a gift from another Round Lake-area family about two years ago. The dog has been trained for search-and-rescue missions and isn't aggressive, Kaminski said.
Nadja gets along wonderfully with children, he said.
Kaminski doesn't patrol with Nadja. When Kaminski is called because someone needs Nadja's help, he goes home and gets the dog.
Because Kaminski is out with the dog in uniform and in his park district squad car, park district Executive Director Bob Newport is concerned some people might think Nadja is an official police dog.
And if something were to go wrong while Nadja was in the field, the park district might be held legally responsible, he said.
The cost of insurance would be "a huge financial burden" for the park district, Newport said.
"It's the sweetest dog," he said. "But it still is a dog, and that adds an increased amount of liability."
Kaminski, a five-year veteran of the department, understands the park district administration and board's concern and acknowledged the importance of liability insurance.
If the board opts not to insure Nadja, Kaminski would be able to respond to calls with the dog on his own time, Newport said, but he couldn't use a police car or his uniform.
Kaminski is concerned about the emergencies that might occur while he's working. In those situations, he couldn't respond with Nadja.
"My thing is, if anything happens while I'm on duty, I can't aid or help," he said.
Thursday's park board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the district office, 814 Hart Road.
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