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State Rep. Jeter’s bill calling for tougher penalties for police K-9 killing advances on the floor

(Top left) State Rep. Chris Jeter (R-Fishers) introduces his bill to the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee to strengthen criminal penalties and sentencing for the killing of a police K-9. The committee approved Jeter’s legislation, sending it to the House for further consideration. (Top right) Fisherman Police Officer Jarred Koopman, testifies in favor of House Bill 1306. Koopman’s K-9 partner, Harlej, was killed while on duty by a fleeing suspect in November 2019. (Photos provided)

The Indiana House Courts and Criminal Code Committee on Wednesday approved state Representative Chris Jeter’s (R-Fishers) bill to strengthen criminal penalties and sentencing for the killing of a police K-9.

Jeter, an attorney who serves as a member of the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee, wrote House Bill 1306. The legislation would increase the penalty for killing a police K-9 from a level 6 felony to a level 5, carrying a sentence of between 1 and 6 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. She said killing a K-9 in the commission of a felony would also be an aggravating circumstance for sentencing in criminal cases.

“These K-9s are vital to police officers who work tirelessly to protect our community,” Jeter said. “Not only do they serve alongside their handlers, but they fearlessly pursue suspects and take on dangerous duties to rescue the Hoosiers.”

Jeter’s legislation is inspired by the 2019 killing of Harlej, a K-9 with the Fishers Police Department shot by a fleeing suspect. With the current maximum sentence for the crime at 6 months, Jeter said the sentence is too low and that criminals who kill K-9 cops like Harlej face harsher penalties. Fisherman Police Officer Jarred Koopman, who was Harlej’s handler, testified in support of the legislation.

He said that in addition to the emotional cost of losing a K-9, their deaths are costly and impact 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 information or to watch the session and committees live, visit iga.in.gov.

State Representative Chris Jeter (R-Fishers) represents House District 88, which includes parts of Hamilton, Hancock, Madison and Marion counties.

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