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Evanston Police Dog Gets Bullet-Proof Protection

November 2, 2006

As an Evanston police officer, Ted Schienbein always has on his protective vest. Now, thanks to a Northwestern alumna, his partner — a German shepherd named Jack — wears one too.

The alumna is Julia A. Weertman, an Evanston dentist, who is a graduate of the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and the University’s former dental school. She also is the daughter of two emeritus professors from the University’s department of materials science and engineering, Johannes and Julia R. Weertman.

Vests for Jack and other canine crime fighters are donated via Illinois Vest-a-Dog, a three-year-old nonprofit, by the good work of institutions and individuals like Weertman, who raised the $825 needed to buy Jack’s new outfit.

The University recently made a $25,000 donation to the City of Evanston to help restart the canine program, and it hosted Jack’s official vesting, at the Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center. Jack is used by the City and Northwestern as needed.

“Jack is my fifth dog,” Weertman said. She has met their two-legged police partners, she added, “and every handler I talk to has a story of how their dog saved their life.”

There was the cop doing a building search who encountered a bat-wielding thug. “He was waiting for the officer with a baseball bat,” she said. “The dog barked so they knew he was there and arrested him.”

Or take the female officer who was attacked by pit bulls. “Her dog took the bites for her,” Weertman said.

Illinois Vest-a-Dog supplied all 55 of the Chicago Police Department’s dogs with vests last summer. It also has outfitted “K9”units — 180 counting Chicago’s — in the Cook County and DuPage County sheriff’s departments and in many municipalities.

“A police dog is more than just an investigative tool,” said Lee Harrison, director of Illinois Vest-a-Dog. “It’s an officer’s partner. It only makes sense to protect them.”

Jack’s beat will include the campus in a cooperative arrangement between the Evanston and Northwestern police departments. Daniel McAleer, assistant chief of police, University Police Administration, and Dennis Nilsson, interim chief of police, Evanston Police Department, were among the officials from the City and the University who participated in the vesting.

Comparing Jack’s vest to other tools of Officer Schienbein’s trade — in particular, his gun — Schienbein said, “You always hope you never have to use most of the equipment you have. But it’s always reassuring to know the equipment is there if you have a worst-case scenario.”