An 11-year-old’s mission to save Butts County police K-9s, one vest at a time

Cameron Tuggle was troubled by news of any police officer’s death, even a four-legged one
Jackson Police Department

Photograph by Dustin Chambers

Jackson Police Department | Jackson | 53 miles southeast of Atlanta
On a cold January night outside Jackson’s 10-person and one-dog police department, 11-year-old Cameron Tuggle’s face lights up when he spots Ric, a six-year-old K-9 officer. “He gave me a wet one!” Cameron exclaims. It’s a fittingly warm welcome for the fifth grader, who had recently outfitted not just Ric, a Belgian Malinois, but all the police dogs in Butts County with protective bulletproof vests. Cameron has always loved dogs—doting on pets ranging from pit bulls to Chihuahuas—and his family has a long history in law enforcement. So he was troubled by news of any police officer’s death, even a four-legged one. In March 2016, after he learned that police dogs in his home county were unprotected while on duty, Cameron launched a GoFundMe page to buy four K-9 vests, which can cost more than $1,000 each. He promoted the fundraiser online, catching the attention of the Eastern and Midwest Chapter of Vesting America’s Police K-9s, a Michigan-based nonprofit that helped spread the word about Cameron’s project. Donations poured in from around the world (an Australian woman sent $250). “We were checking the page 200 times a day,” says Cameron’s father, Dusty Tuggle. Within four months Cameron had enough cash to purchase vests for all three K-9 officers at the Butts County Sheriff’s Office, and by fall he had raised nearly $4,000. In December the Jackson City Council proclaimed the first Friday of 2017 “Cameron Tuggle Day.” The last of the money went toward purchasing a vest for the city’s most versatile K-9 cop, Ric, a four-year veteran of the force with a knack for sniffing out drugs and tracking down fleeing suspects. With the fundraiser finished, Police Chief James Morgan invited Cameron to meet Ric. With Ric and his handler Sergeant Corey Biles, Cameron lists the life-saving benefits of Ric’s new vest: “It can stop up to a .357 Magnum, and hollow-points, a four-inch blade knife . . . and it’s fireproof.” Chief Morgan stands back in the streetlight glow, watching. “Those vests are pretty expensive, and there’s just so much money you have to go around,” he says. “To me, this is above and beyond.”