The sister of Master Cpl. Sandy Rogers would like to sponsor a police canine in honor of the fallen Aiken Public Safety officer, and is looking to the community to help her accomplish that.
“Sandy liked the canines. She loved dogs,” said Virginia Johnson, Rogers' sister. “They'd always pick at her about sticking her nose in the car and playing with the dogs. They'd say, ‘Get away.'”
Rogers was killed in the line of duty while investigating a suspicious vehicle in Eustis Park the morning of Jan. 28, 2012. Johnson said she got the idea of purchasing a police canine in memory of her sister about two months ago, and went to speak with Chief Charles Barranco about it.
“I didn't know when they needed one or if they even needed one,” she said. She learned from Barranco that one of Aiken Public Safety's canines, a Belgian Malinois named Sasja, had recently been diagnosed with cancer. Sasja died last week, and Johnson said Aiken Public Safety had been considering putting another dog in the budget for next year.
“I asked him for a way to remember Sandy, to honor Sandy. I wanted to sponsor a dog,” she said. “I asked him how he went and picked out one. I told him I didn't want to be in and out, but the only thing I did ask is, I wanted the dog to be named Sandman. That was Sandy's nickname at the house.”
A new police puppy and training cost about $8,000, Johnson said.
According to Capt. David Turno, Aiken Public Safety has one police canine after Sasja died. Their dogs are single-purpose, narcotics detection canines.
“We are in the process of working up our own (request for proposal) that we will send out to kennels that specialize in producing animals for law enforcement and the military for that purpose,” Turno said. “We'll review them and try to get the best quality animal for the department. We want a good temperament, and obviously a healthy animal.”
Turno said the department has the money to purchase a canine, but any money raised by Johnson will be an added benefit.
Johnson said they will be selling t-shirts and vehicle decals to work toward the $8,000 goal. The t-shirts will be gray and will have an infinity symbol, along with 203 (Rogers' car number) and the phrase “We go on” printed on them. The back of the shirt will have a police puppy with a police hat on its head, a pair of handcuffs in its mouth and a prayer to keep its handler safe. The shirts will be available in a variety of sizes, including children's sizes.
The decal will feature the infinity symbol with 203 and “We go on” worked into the design.
Prices for the shirts and decals haven't been decided, but the items should be available for purchase this week. For more information, or to make a purchase, call Jack Rogers Tire at 803-649-9495.
Teddy Kulmala covers the crime and courts beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since August 2012. He is a native of Williston and majored in communication studies at Clemson University.