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'They are officers': Bill aimed at protecting the lives of K-9 officers moves to House floor

Posted at 6:55 AM, Jan 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-24 08:02:07-05

INDIANAPOLIS — A bill calling for harsher penalties for killing police K-9s has advanced at the statehouse.

Fishers Police K-9 Harlej is the reason this bill was drafted.

Harlej was killed in the line of duty in November 2019.

“It was a tragedy that Harlej was killed in the line of duty but at the end of the day he saved a lot of officers lives, he saved my life and he should be honored as a police officer in that sense.” Harlej’s handler Jarred Koopman said.

The bill, drafted by State Representative Chris Jeter, aims at honoring his life and protecting other K-9 officers.

The person responsible for his death took a plea deal and was sentenced to two and half a years for killing Harlej.

House bill 1306 would increase the penalty for killing a police K-9 from a level 6 felony to a level 5 felony.

The crime would carry a sentence of between one to six years in prison as well as a fine of up to $10,000.

"These K-9s are vital for police officers who work tirelessly to protect our community," Jeter said. "Not only do they serve alongside their handlers, but they also fearlessly pursue suspects and take on dangerous tasks to save Hoosiers."

Koopman still deals with the pain on losing his partner.

He said this bill is a step in the right direction.

"These K-9 partners are not just dogs, and they are actually police officers. And the community sees them as police officers, our department sees them as police officers so it's good to see that is being reflected in the laws that are trying to be passed if you do injure a K-9 in the line of duty,” Koopman said.

“These K-9s are members of our community, they are members of our department. They are loved as such. They put themselves in danger, they put themselves at risk for our community. They put themselves at risk for our officers, and the crimes that come with hurting them should be in stride with knowing how detrimental it can be when we lose one,” Chief Ed Gebhart said.