LEE -- The town's first four-legged law enforcement officer is headed north to join the Adams Police Department.
Four months ago, Kumar, a two-and-half foot tall, 65-pound German shepherd helped form the Lee Police Department's first-ever canine unit to assist in the search for suspects, missing persons, drugs and other evidence of a crime.
However, Kumar can no longer partner with his handler, Sgt. Craig DeSantis, who was promoted to the Lee sergeant's position in mid-December, replacing Jeffrey Roosa two weeks after he became the new police chief.
Roosa says DeSantis' new duties precludes him from working with Kumar and currently, there isn't a Lee officer prepared to take over the canine unit.
"We can't do the [unit] justice and jeopardize the well-being of the dog," he said.
The good news is Kumar's crimefighting career will resume in Adams, as that town's police force is ready to form its first-ever canine unit.
While Kumar has been removed from active duty in Lee, he remains in DeSantis' care, until he can be sent to a local kennel and eventually retrained this spring with his new handler, Officer Curtis Crane, said Adams Police Chief Rick Tarsa. He expects the Kumar and Crane partnership will be ready for duty by Memorial Day.
Tarsa said the training begins in April under the tutelage of Dwayne Foisey of the Berkshire County Sheriff's Office. Foisey recently became certified to locally train police dogs and their handlers. The Lee tandem of DeSantis and Kumar spent six weeks in July and August at a Pennsylvania kennel that specializes in teaching man and man's best friend to work as team on the police beat.
As was the case in Lee, Adams has received a $25,000 grant from the New York-based Stanton Foundation to fund its canine unit for three years. Roosa said Lee will return the unspent funds from its grant to the foundation.
Tarsa says he and Crane have been working for several months to develop an Adams' canine unit.
"It was unfortunate for Lee, but we're grateful for the opportunity to take the dog," Tarsa said. "The dog going through the program a second time should make him that much better."
DeSantis hates to part with Kumar, but he is glad he'll be staying in the Berkshires.
"I know this is what's best for the dog -- he deserves it," he said.
Adams, along with Dalton, are looking to join Pittsfield, Lanesborough, North Adams, Williamstown, Great Barrington and the Berkshire Sheriff's Office on the list of local law enforcement agencies with canine units.
Dalton also has received a Stanton Foundation grant of $26,000 toward establishing that town's new canine unit. Dalton Police Chief Jeffrey Coe told The Eagle last week the dog is expected to arrive in April and complete training by fall.
During training of Adams police new canine unit, an existing town police cruiser will be retrofitted to accommodate the police dog, using funds already in the police budget, according to Tarsa.
The Adams police chief believes the canine unit will become a great asset for the community.
"Everybody loves animals," he said. "The public relations aspect alone will be phenomenal."
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