Mayor Drew Gilbert said the expense involved is typically $4,000 to obtain a trained dog and another $4,000 to send an officer for training.
However, the department has been given an opportunity to get a dog donated if the city will pay for the officer’s certification.
The officer would be responsible for all expenses associated with food and veterinary care for the dog. He would also be expected to sign a three-year contract with the city.
“If they end their employment for any reason, whether we initiate it or they do, they would be responsible for reimbursing the city for the full $4,000 for their training. The dog would stay with the city,” Gilbert said.
Council member Ed Earp, who works in law enforcement, said a K-9 unit would be an important addition to the force.
“Now if we have to call out for a dog unit from anywhere, you’re looking at a minimum of an hour to a two hour time frame to get them on-site. With us having our own, we’d have the ability to be on-site immediately,” Earp said.
Earp also stressed that the animal would be treated like any other officer.
“A lot of people aren’t aware that if that dog is assaulted by someone while an officer is performing his duties, that is an assault on an officer. That person will go to jail for that reason,” Earp said.
A Belgian Malinois is the breed of dog that the department is expected to acquire.
Earp and police chief Nick Smith will begin interviewing officers who wish to participate in the program.
The agency providing the dog will then select the appropriate animal based on the officer’s demeanor.
“If you have an aggressive officer, they can handle an aggressive dog. If you have a mild-mannered officer, they can’t handle an aggressive dog,” Smith told the council.
The dog will be used primarily in drug searches, not for tracking or bomb-sniffing.
Gilbert said the department has been advised not to seek a dog dually certified in bombs and narcotics because there would be no way for the officer to know which is being identified.
Smith said the deadline for having an officer selected for training is Sept. 3.