FARMINGTON — The Farmington Police Department has proposed renewing a K-9 program specifically for drug detection.

Police Chief Jack Peck and officer Michael Lyman presented their proposal to the Board of Selectmen last week.

The board tabled a vote until more information on insurance and liability for the dog is obtained.

As Maine faces a heroin epidemic, Farmington is feeling the impact, Lyman said. 

“Illegal drug activities have increased in our area,” he said. “The department arrested multiple people in Farmington for trafficking heroin in 2016.”

Farmington has also had multiple drug overdoses, some resulting in death, he said.

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Officers carry Narcan, a drug to reverse opiate overdoses.

The department is involved with the HOPE program, which offers help for drug addiction without prosecution.

A K-9 unit would help the department serve the people of Farmington, Lyman said.

“Unless there is a K-9 in Farmington at the time of a traffic stop, there is not sufficient time to have a K-9 respond,” he said.

A Supreme Court case, Rodriguez v. United States; 2015, has limited the amount of time a drug-detecting dog can respond to a traffic stop. The officer cannot extend the time he stops a vehicle for a dog to arrive or waste time until the dog is there. A sniff would have to be done by the time the ticket or warning was issued, he said.

County and state police have drug-detecting K-9s, but most are trained to detect marijuana. The dog cannot differentiate between drugs and now that marijuana is legal, police cannot tell if the dog is detecting pot or an illegal substance in a vehicle. Dogs are now being trained to detect drugs but not marijuana, he said.

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Three state police canines are available, but two are nearly an hour away in Vassalboro and Oakland. The third is in Industry, he said. The county has two K-9s, one is retired and his replacement has not been trained in drug detection. The other belongs to a lieutenant who works days and because of his role, is limited in his ability to assist the department.

Lyman believes in the program enough to take on financial responsibility for the basic needs and care of the animal. He will not be paid overtime for maintenance of the dog or training, Peck said.

The proposal requests the department pay $700 for drug-detection training in August and $100 to make a police car ready to accommodate the K-9.

Some officers’ work shifts would have to change to cover Lyman during the nine-week training course at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in Vassalboro.

It is important enough that training will consume most of the department’s training funds, Peck said. Other officers realize that and support the program, as does Peck.

The department used to have a K-9 unit. The process of renewing the program has taken about a year, Peck said.

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Lyman has already bought a 5-month-old German shepherd and said he would assume costs for the dog.

Members of the board were concerned about future costs and insurance and whom would be liable if the dog were hurt on duty.

Peck said he felt the patrol budget could absorb the costs. If approved, he agreed to return in a year with information about use of the K-9 over the year.

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Farmington police propose renewing a K-9 unit for drug detection.

Farmington Police Department

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