The Farmington Police Department will soon have a new drug detection dog to assist in investigations. Then Officer Michael Lyman is seen with K-9 Axel in 2019 before that dog was removed from duty. File photo

FARMINGTON — Selectmen authorized the purchase and training of a new drug detection K-9 for the Police Department Tuesday, June 23.

Selectman Chairman Joshua Bell was not at the meeting. He sent a memo saying he felt it would be a duplication of efforts already being provided by Franklin County Sheriff Department and was opposed, Town Manager Richard Davis said.

Last winter Deputy Chief Shane Cote and Sgt. Michael Lyman spoke about sending someone to a summer school, Lyman said.

Lyman was K-9 Axel’s handler when the dog went on duty in September, 2017.

“There are usually two schools in the summertime, but then COVID-19 happened, basically messed up the K-9 schools,” Lyman said. “They were canceled for a long time.

“We found out a week ago they’re going to hold one school, starting June 29. It gives us about a week to pull things together, two weeks before the school actually starts.

“A breeder in North Carolina, Anchored Canine Inc, breeds black and yellow labs. They have a specific contract with custom and border patrol, the Warden Service purchased a dog from them about three weeks ago and Maine State Police is purchasing a dog from them this weekend.

“They breed dogs specifically for drug detection. They might be the new State of Maine go-to for purchase of detection Labs. These dogs have a guarantee of six months.”

The dog in the litter being looked at comes with a 24-month guarantee, Lyman said

“The cost of the dog is $4,500, which I recognize is pretty steep. A way to purchase the dog without using taxpayers’ money is to use the drug expenditure account,” he said. “There is $18,933 in the account as of yesterday. We also have a fair amount of cash associated with drug cases that hasn’t been put into that fund yet.

“One specific case alone forfeited $4,629. A drug dog was used to help locate the drugs in that case.”

The departments’ K-9 program is at a point where K-9 Axel, who wasn’t bred for detection, is no longer available. When around other animals, he gets anxious and it’s hard to get him to focus on work, Lyman said.

“We’ve created a good foundation in the community with more than 24 months of Axel’s work,” Lyman said. “A K-9 specifically bred for detection with a guarantee will take our program to the next level.

“Harder to measure is the community aspect. He’s (Axel) been in all the schools multiple times, given demonstrations throughout town. You can’t really measure that but it’s been a big success for our police department.”

Selectman Matthew Smith asked how long the school was.

Eight weeks, Lyman replied.

“You’re already a couple of officers short. What sort of hardship will that put on having an officer leave,” Smith asked.

“Bridgette (Gilbert) is back on the road, which helps,” Lyman said. “If we had full staff it wouldn’t cost any overtime. Overtime is almost every single day now. His going to the school shouldn’t create any additional overtime on top of that.”

Officer Ethan Boyd has been selected as the handler if the department is allowed to proceed, Cote said.

“When I first got hired, I went around to all the schools,” Boyd said. “They were all very interested.

“It’s no secret where we are in today’s society. I think it would be a huge benefit for us as officers to be able to get in with these kids, walking around the schools, talking with kids about the dog.

“I think the community relations is a huge benefit, especially having a Lab. 99% are very well mannered. To have that interaction with the kids, see we’re there for multiple reasons.”

Selectman Scott Landry asked what the cost of schooling was.

The cost for the daytime program is $800, Cote said.

COVID-19 has limited training opportunities this year and funds should be available, he added.

Money could also come from evidence, Lyman said.

“The public relations aspect is very important, to really get to kids while they’re young, to get their respect,” Landry said.

How much duplication with the Sheriff’s Department would there be, he asked.

With search warrants, known investigations, there is time to get a dog here, Lyman said.

“We don’t do that many search warrants,” he said. “For traffic stops, support when an officer suspects something, having a dog nearby will come in handy. We can’t hold traffic stops longer to bring a dog in.

“Maine State Police is no longer call sharing. If a dog is nearby it’s not a problem but if it’s in Strong there isn’t time to get a dog there.”

A 24 month K-9 program summary on K-9 Axel’s work showed;

•  118 total sniffs

•  153 random/free air searches with no suspicion

•  145 bail conditions, search warrant and probation checks (situations where officer has authority to search but dog allows for a more efficient search)

•  120 articulable suspicions related to investigations (Times when the dog is key. A K-9 sniff can add to the probable cause and gives the officer the ability to develop probable cause with very little interaction with the suspects)

•  126 positive indications (Resulted in the seizure of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, cocaine-base, straws with residue, needles and other paraphernalia)

•  1Approximately 22% of sniffs concluded in a positive indication

“We’re looking at this dog as a long term dog. I was hoping Axel would be but it didn’t work out,” Lyman said. “You get what you pay for.”

“The local police department having their own dog instead of relying on someone else is always beneficial, convenient,” Selectman Michael Fogg said. “I think the feeling of the community, I don’t think they like drugs much, want drug dealers caught.

“I think the community would support this. I would support it. If you have a need for a dog and the sheriff’s department or Maine State Police are unavailable, that’s sad. That’s not right.”

Selectmen Fogg, Landry and Smith approved the purchase and training but asked for the program to be reviewed in a year to see where it is. Selectman Stephan Bunker was absent.

 

 

 


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