A new Bluff City police officer was sworn in Thursday night to a round of applause from the community.
Officer Neeko struggled during the ceremony when he was asked to put his right paw on the Bbible.
Neeko is the police department's first canine officer. Neeko will work with Officer Roger Antone as the first Bluff City K-9 Unit.
Officer Antone told us the dog has already helped them locate drugs. The 16-month-old dog has been in service for about three weeks. "I've used him on a couple of narcotics searches out on the highways here," said Antone. "We've had our small share of stuff happen."
Neeko has been trained to sniff out methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, cocaine and ecstasy. "There's a lot of narcotics passing through our cities here and we have a lot of people at risk," said Antone.
Sullivan County has a K-9 Unit, but Antone said they still need one of their own to keep drugs out of the community. "Mainly we have a lot of people come through here with a lot of narcotics," Antone told us. "A lot of times neighboring agencies are not able to be there when we need an animal to search a vehicle."
Antone told us Neeko will also be used for building searches.
It cost the police department $15,000 to get and train Neeko.
The community was very generous, said Antone. "It came from Banker's Construction and a lot of people in the community donated, actually Appalachian Animal Hospital donated as well," he told us.
Appalachian Animal Hospital owner Karen Stone was at the swearing-in ceremony. The hospital raised a $1,000 for the dog's bullet-proof and knife-proof vest. "It makes it a lot safer for him, especially because he's really only going to be put in dangerous situations where there is the possibility of a shooting or stabbing with drug involvement," said Stone.
They collected the money at the hospital and at Heritage Days, she told us. "I am just so excited that the community was behind this," said Stone. "There was this great outpouring of love from all of the community."
Officer Antone told us the Board of Alderman and the police department offset the cost of Neeko that was left after the community donations.