Food City donates 'bite suit' to Sullivan County Sheriff's Office

J. H. Osborne • Aug 13, 2019 at 8:30 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — The Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office’s K9 program has a new “bite suit” thanks to Food City. Such suits are worn by deputies during “apprehension” training with K9s.

Sheriff Jeff Cassidy said Food City’s representatives reached out to his office after Sgt. Steve Hinkle died in the line of duty earlier this year, asking what the company could do to help honor the fallen officer.

“We were in dire need of a K9 suit,” Cassidy said. “We’re really thankful for what Food City does for us and for the whole community. They are very gracious and dedicated to law enforcement and what we do.”

Cassidy pointed out the new suit features “Hinkle” in large letters across the back of its jacket and “1741” — Hinkle’s badge number — down one pants leg.

“He was a real hero,” Food City Security Director Daniel Sluss said of Hinkle. “We wanted to do something for the sheriff’s office in his memory. So while they’re out training and doing demonstrations, people will see (Hinkle’s name and badge number on the suit) and remember Sgt. Hinkle. I’m glad we can be here today to honor him with this donation.”

Two officers helped demonstrate the new suit: Sgt. Kris Thomas and Deputy Andrew Walden. Both are K9 officers or handlers. Thomas said officers train 15 hours a month with the sheriff’s office’s four K9s (two K9s are on duty each shift), and the training is for the canines and the humans involved. The officers are teaching the K9s to assist in apprehension of suspects, and the officers get the opportunity to learn each dog’s “cues” — or how each alerts to dangerous situations.

In addition to that training, officers regularly perform public demonstrations at schools, churches and businesses, Thomas said. So far this calendar year they’ve gone on 35 or so demonstrations in the community. So the new suit, with Hinkle’s name and badge number, will be seen by many people in the years to come. The suit it replaces had been used by the sheriff’s office for nine years.

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