On Jan. 18, The House Courts and Criminal Code Committee approved State Rep. Chris Jeter’s (R-Fishers) bill to strengthen criminal penalties and sentencing for killing a police K-9.
Jeter, an attorney who serves as a member of the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee, authored House Bill 1306. The legislation would increase the penalty for killing a police K-9 from a Level 6 to a Level 5 Felony, carrying a sentence of between one to six years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. He said killing a K-9 in the commission of a crime would also be an aggravating circumstance for sentencing in criminal cases.
“These K-9s are vital for police officers who work tirelessly to protect our community,” Jeter stated. “Not only do they serve alongside their handlers, but they also fearlessly pursue suspects and take on dangerous tasks to save Hoosiers.”
Jeter’s legislation is inspired by the 2019 killing of Harlej, a K-9 with the Fishers Police Dept. shot by a fleeing suspect. With the current maximum sentence for the crime standing at six months, Jeter said the penalty is too low and criminals who take the lives of police K-9s like Harlej need to face stiffer penalties. Officer Jarred Koopman, who was Harlej’s handler, testified in support of the legislation.
Koopman said in addition to the emotional toll of losing a K-9, their deaths are costly and impacts budgets as training can cost up to $45,000 per dog.
House Bill 1306 now heads to the House floor for further consideration. For more or to watch sessions and committees live, visit iga.in.gov.