Norway Police Officer John Lewis explains his proposal to start a canine program at the Norway Police Department to the Board of Selectmen on Thursday.

NORWAY — The Board of Selectmen heard a proposal Thursday evening from town police officer John Lewis to obtain a canine to assist police in tracking people and sniffing out evidence, including drugs.

Chief Rob Federico said Lewis came to him about the idea.

“I’ve always wished that we had one,” Federico said. “I feel it’s the one component we’re missing for us to be a complete, all-service police department.”

He said Lewis’ father was a canine handler, so “John is familiar with how the program works,” and his wife works at a veterinary hospital.

“He’s familiar with all of this, so I told him to do the homework, make a presentation to the selectmen, and give you all a chance to ask questions,” Federico said.

Lewis said he is looking to train a canine to track people, “whether they’re lost or have committed a crime,” finding evidence that someone dropped with a human scent or detecting drugs.

“The dog won’t be trained for biting,” he said. “A non-biting dog isn’t typical, but it’s on the rise. The idea is for this to be a dog that will be something positive in the community, something that children will be excited to see in the area.”

He told the board the dog would be able to help find people who have wandered from home and are missing, whether they are “children, older folks or people with mental health diagnoses.”

The dog would be a purebred black lab, he added.

While the Maine State Police and Oxford County have canine units, Lewis said “they could be anywhere in the county or state when we need them.”

“The other day, there was a kid who went missing from Greenwood Road in Greenwood,” Lewis said. “It took about 20 or 30 minutes for a canine unit to get there. If I had one, it would probably take six minutes.”

Federico added that “normally, the most expensive part of training a dog is teaching it when to bite and when not to bite.”

“Since this dog is a non-biting dog, a huge training cost is being averted,” he said.

Lewis said the training would be free and most of the cost for starting the program would come from purchasing the dog and retrofitting a police car for the animal.

For the dog to be considered “certified,” Lewis said that it would require 300 hours of training, with 240 hours focused on drug detection.

Town Manager Dennis Lajoie said he and the selectmen would look over the information Lewis presented and discuss their thoughts “a couple of meetings from now.”

Selectman Russell Newcomb said that he’s “proud to say that the town has an officer who’s shown an interest in this and done his homework.”

He said the program is “well worth looking at,” and would be a “great thing for Norway.”

“My one question is if you’re planning to stay in Norway for good after this,” Newcomb said with a laugh.

Lewis said when he first came in for an interview with the department, he told Federico that his goal was to become a canine handler.

“Wherever I am when I become a canine handler is where I’ll stay,” Lewis said.

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