NEWTON FALLS, Ohio (WJW) – A fiery and emotionally-charged city council meeting over whether a resigning police officer can keep his K-9 partner and at what cost.
The officer and the city had agreed to an amount in the thousands of dollars, but citizens packed council chambers to speak their minds about the deal.
“Allow Officer Lyden to keep his partner, his best friend,” said one resident during the meeting.
“This is wrong. Award custody of Kato to Officer Lyden, wish him well and let’s move on,” said a man, as the crowd applauded.
One by one, residents of Newton Falls in Trumbull County address city council Thursday evening in support of Officer Steve Lyden.
The K-9 officer is retiring from the force, effective midnight Friday. He wants to keep his drug-sniffing partner, Kato, who he’s been with since May of 2020 and says has become part of his family.
“We love that dog so much. We spent quite a lot of our own money on him and didn’t ask the city for any of it. The vet clinic in town donated all care and was buying his food up until December of last year, then we took over,” Officer Lyden told council members.
Technically, Kato is property of the city and was acquired and trained mostly by donations as well as money from the city’s coffers. Officer Lyden came to an agreement with the city to buy Kato for $5,000.
It also stated that Lyden would have to pay $25,000 if Kato was ever sold, bred or put back into service.
“I don’t have a problem with the price for Kato, but it’s not right to tell me what I can and cannot do once he’s mine,” said Officer Lyden.
“I want to make sure that he doesn’t take this dog and put it back into service, said Councilman John Baryak.
“If I sell you a pick-up truck, am I allowed to put in the sales agreement that you’re not allowed to use it as a pickup truck anymore?” asked another resident.
“I’m not talking about money. I don’t think that’s relevant and I think. I actually think it’s disgusting,” said Councilwoman Julie Stimpert, to applause from the crowd.
Some city council members agreed with Officer Lyden and the crowd. Councilman Christopher Granchie proposed discarding the current agreement altogether, which passed unanimously.
“And replace it with city council agrees to sell K-9 Kato to Officer Lyden for one dollar with no stipulations,” he proposed, to more applause.
“I’m still in shock, I didn’t expect this. We were just scared before and now, it’s like all that’s gone. We don’t have to worry about it, we get to keep our boy,” Lyden told reporters after the meeting.
Officer Lyden says he has no plans of selling, breeding or putting Kato back into service anyway. He and his wife say their only goal is to keep him as a family dog.