By Pete Zamplas- Heading into the new year, law enforcement agencies throughout Henderson County are getting a boost from Stand T.A.L.L. (Thank A Local Lawman). The non-profit program was begun two years ago by the N.C. Sentinel Patriot Club. Retired corporate executive Ron Kauffman founded and leads both groups.
Equipping a new K-9 Agility Park with its agility and obstacle course is among steps Stand T.A.L.L. has taken in recent months. Local police dogs get to train with their officer handlers there. Kauffman cited a “need for specialized dog agility equipment used to maintain the skills, training levels and physical conditioning of the police K-9s. The training components will be built to meet the standards of the North American Police Work Dog Association.”
The site is Trace Barn, a covered facility at the county landfill’s transfer station. “Law enforcement did not have the funds to purchase the materials needed for an agility park,” Kauffman noted. “Stand T.A.L.L. members reached out to donors and building supply companies to ask for donations of materials and funds, to provide everything needed to build the course. It’s open to all K-9 units in the county.”
Officers are appreciative. “We couldn’t have done this without the help of Stand T.A.L.L.,” said Mike Marsteller, the sheriff’s K-9 team supervisor. “They’ve been a tremendous resource for us not only with our K-9s, but in providing for a number of needs within the department in the past.”
Indeed, the group has been “dogged” in its support of canine units in 2018. It paid for advanced K-9 certification training of Hendersonville Police’s new dog, Sunny, and its assigned officer Pete Laite. Stand T.A.L.L. paid the $3,000 for the 16-week, 600-hour course that ended in March. Sunny, a two-year-old Belgian Malinois, replaced a retiree that was one of the city’s two police dogs.
Stand T.A.L.L. bought three bulletproof vests (at $1,800 each) to replace bulkier ones, to protect sheriff’s drug-sniffing patrol dogs. The lighter vests enable the dogs to pursue suspects more agilely. Kauffman’s group provided state-of-the-art vests for city police human officers a year earlier.
“We work with all law enforcement to fund some of their un-budgeted needs,” Kauffman said. Projects this year also included $1,000 for new officers’ basic law enforcement training (BLET) program at BRCC, and helping Laurel Park Police buy a wireless security camera system to monitor its new pill drop box.
Working with youth to develop solid citizens is a burgeoning effort, he said. “Equally important, we provide programs like Kids & Cops at the Boys & Girls Club and our new Books & Badges program in collaboration with the Hands On! Children’s Museum.”
Stand T.A.L.L. paid officers to work off-duty but in uniform as security from April through summer for the club in the Green Meadows projects. Officers “lend a helping hand — with personal problems, or math homework,” Kauffman said. “They share in friendly conversations” to build rapport. “They listen to their concerns. When asked, they offer solutions to problems.”
Their summer staffing adds to their school-year presence, when they greet children as they are dropped off by buses after school. The outreach is to more than 1,100 youths ages 6-8.
This “encourages positive police interactions with the children” after-school in summers, and transforms image of police from adversary to ally and role model, Kauffman said. He provided bicycles as prizes for the club’s youth of the month.
Children were also the focus in the group’s latest venture. Kauffman and Stand T.A.L.L. Vice-Pres. Sharon Hanson were part of Shop with a Hero, at Walmart ahead of Christmas. They accompanied a Dana Elementary fifth-grade girl on her free $100 shopping spree.
Law enforcement officers, fire fighters and EMS responders from Henderson and Buncombe counties were paired up with 64 other area students. Youths were chosen by their guidance counselors, based on financial and other factors, Kauffman noted. The local Elks Lodge and Walmart funded the gifts.
A fun Stand T.A.L.L. fundraiser is Corks for Cops of wine and music, annually since 2017 at Appalachian Ridge Artisan Cidery in June.
Bike for Blue will be Saturday, April 27 starting 11 a.m. The motorcycle ride benefits Stand T.A.L.L. projects. The route is over 60 miles, from Harley-Davidson of Asheville (20 Patton Cove Rd. in Swannanoa) to Triskelion Brewing Co. on Seventh Avenue in Hendersonville. Officer motorcycle divisions will escort riders.
The $20 entry fee includes one free beer/wine/soft drink at Triskelion, and access to music and food vendors. May 4 is the rain-postponement date.
Check ThankaCop.org or call 393-0900 for more on Stand T.A.L.L. and its projects and upcoming events.