FARMINGTON — The Board of Selectmen approved a drug-detecting K-9 for the Farmington Police Department on Tuesday.

Axel, a 6-month-old German shepherd, is expected to begin training in August and be ready to start work in October.

Police Chief Jack Peck and officer Michael Lyman proposed reinstating a K-9 at the department during a previous meeting. The proposal called for only the development of a drug-detecting K-9 to deal with the growing drug and heroin epidemic.

Selectmen raised questions about liability insurance and who would be responsible for payment if the dog was injured on the job. 

Peck found the town department’s insurance would cover. Starting in October, liability insurance would cost about a $1,000 a year, he said. The department has over $7,000 in drug forfeiture money. Peck said he intends to use that over the years to pay for insurance so there is no cost to the taxpayer.

If the dog is injured, the insurance would cover up to $7,500 per occurrence.

There is a $500 deductible, he said. Because the dog will not be trained to track or as an attack dog, he feels the risk is lower. But, there is always the potential for any officer to be hit by traffic during a stop.

Lyman and his wife, Krista, purchased the dog from a breeder in Starks. Lyman volunteered to serve as handler and the couple agreed to pay expenses, including housing, food and veterinarian bills. 

Ownership of the dog will be turned over to the town, Peck said. But once Axel retires, ownership will go back to Lyman.

Peck agreed to create a six-month log of the dog’s activities from the day the dog starts working. This will be brought back to the board for review.

The log will include how many times the dog is used, where, when and whether use of the dog was successful.

Other proposed costs for the department are $700 for training and $100 to equip a vehicle to accommodate the K-9.

Chairman Joshua Bell thanked Lyman for his concern for the community.

“You saw a need and had the willingness to do something,” Bell said.

After the meeting, Lyman was asked why he and his family wanted to do this.

“Personally, I see the issue the state of Maine is having firsthand, with record numbers of meth labs and overdose deaths,” he said in an email. “As a police department we must be progressive and adapt in order to successfully ensure that Farmington remains a safe community. If we aren’t malleable to combating the issues of our area,  than we are setting ourselves up for failure.

“I also saw an opportunity, based within my position at the Police Department, to ensure an even better, and safer community for my family to grow up in,” Lyman wrote. “The work we do now will impact the type of community our children will be raised and live in. While this program will require some sacrifice from my family and I, it is something that I truly believe needs to be done.” 

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Axel, a 6-month-old German shepherd, visits Farmington Police Department, where he will begin work once his drug-sniffing training is completed. Axel and his handler, Officer Michael Lyman, will train at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in Vassalboro from August to October.

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