Rumford Police Chief Stacy Carter tells the Board of Selectmen on Thursday his department needs a police dog to deal with an area-wide drug problem. (Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times)
RUMFORD — A proposal for a police dog was given the go-ahead by selectmen Thursday evening, but only if the cost of it can be privately funded.
Police Chief Stacy Carter said his department is looking to start a police K-9 program to address an area-wide drug problem.
“We need to start somewhere because we need to take back our community and get drugs off the street,” Carter said.
Following a 30-minute discussion, Selectman Jim Theriault asked, “So it’s your every intention to not use taxpayer money to fund this?”
“That’s correct. That’s correct,” responded Carter.
Selectman Peter Chase made a motion to allow Carter “to proceed with trying to gather funding to fund this program. If he’s able to get private business to fund this program, I’m all in favor of it. If not, we’ve got to wait until it goes through the budget process.”
After more discussion, board Chairman Chris Brennick said a second part to the motion is that if Carter gets it fully funded, he can then begin a K-9 program.
That motion passed 4-1. Selectman Mark Belanger voted against it, saying he wanted to see it done as a regional effort by Rumford, Mexico and Dixfield, then have it funded by the three towns.
Following the vote, Carter said he would be seeking around $30,000 for the program. This does not include the cost of a recommended police utility vehicle for the dog and officer who would be the handler.
The chief said several officers have expressed interest in being the K-9 handler, but one had not yet been selected.
In his proposal, Carter said, “If we had a canine readily available to conduct searching, we would be able to seize more illegal drugs than we are currently seizing. Along with the drugs, there are times when the sums of cash that the suspect is in possession of can also be seized as drug proceeds and ultimately forfeited.”
Once the canine program is established, he said, he hopes that those criminal forfeitures will sustain the program in the future.
Carter said the canine would also be readily available to neighboring communities, thus removing as much illicit drugs from the area as possible.
Upon completion of the canine’s drug detection certification, Carter said, the department would continue to train and have the canine available to track people who become lost. The canine would also be used in community-oriented policing events.
The breed of dog being sought is a Labrador retriever that has been tested for its drive, ability to work in and around any condition and suitability to detection. It is a non-aggressive dog that works well around people.
The canine will have initial training consisting of 320 hours, with at least 240 hours focused on drug detection. The course that’s attended must be approved by the Maine Criminal Justice Academy. Recurring training is required with at least 24 hours of training in a quarter.
Town Manager Linda-Jean “L-J” Briggs said this would not be “a bite dog. It would be used for drugs and search.”
She said they would like to get a training dog that is 12 to 18 months old.
Carter said the canine would cost between $4,000 and $5,000 with a guarantee. If the dog does not meet the training needs, it would be replaced with another dog at no additional charge.