The Oregon Police Department may soon have its own K-9 unit to assist in the apprehension of criminals.
“About a year ago, the concept of having a police dog, which has come up probably many times over the last 20 years, was looked at very seriously,” Mayor Mike Seferian said at a Sept. 17 committee of the whole meeting.
“We’re at that stage of looking like it could not only be cost effective but an improvement to the city. So in the next couple of weeks, we’ve been getting some information to you about a police dog,” Seferian said to council. “We still have ongoing work to do so if we choose to make that recommendation to you, we will be prepared to answer all the questions as to why we think it is a good idea. We believe we can make the case that a police dog in our police department would be an asset to the City of Oregon, and the police department.”
In a September 21 letter to city council, Police Chief Mike Navarre gave more details on the benefits of adding a K-9 unit to the department.
“I would propose a dual purpose canine that would be used to track human scent and detect drugs,” stated Navarre. “The dog would not be used to detect bombs or dead bodies.”
A dog on the force, according to Navarre, would offer the following advantages:
• Enhance preventative patrol;
• Perform safety checks and ensure unauthorized persons are not in restricted areas;
• Track fleeing suspect (s) to support officers in apprehensions;
• Search for narcotics and other unlawful drugs;
• Maintain order and deter unruly behavior;
• Public relations;
• Provide for a higher level of officer safety;
• Building searches;
• A fear of dogs by the criminal element reduces resistance during apprehension;
• An increase in cash and property seizures that normally accompany drug related arrests.
“It is my belief that the acquisition of a police canine would reduce the amount of danger encountered by police officers while searching for burglary suspects within dark buildings and conducting open field searches for fleeing offenders,” stated Navarre. “I also believe that the increase in cash and property seizures, that normally accompany drug related arrests, will more than cover the cost of maintaining the canine.”
Start-up costs to acquire the dog and training of both the dog and handler would be about $15,000, according to Navarre.
Toledo Refinery is offering to contribute funds to pay the initial cost, stated Navarre.
“The initial startup cost is the biggest disadvantage,” Navarre told The Press on Wednesday. “But that is eliminated because Toledo Refinery is offering to pay for it. We’re going to ask city council on October 15 to accept the money from Toledo Refinery. By accepting that, council will give their approval for the formation of the unit.”
Navarre said he has spoken to members of council to answer any questions they might have.
“I think it’s a very valuable tool. That’s one of my principal jobs as chief - to provide my officers with the best tools available to keep them safe, and to help them do their jobs more efficiently.”
Navarre had experience with K-9 units when he was with the Toledo Police Division.
“When I started in 1977, we had a whole unit, five officers with dogs. There was always a dog available for building searches. That was when times were better - we had more people, the economy was good. They did away with that unit,” said Navarre. Toledo eventually acquired two K-9 dogs assigned to the metro drug task force, which are still in service today.
There are other K-9 units that belong to area police departments the city can use if they are needed, said Navarre.
“There are dogs trained for other purposes in our area. You can’t expect a dog to be good at everything. So we’re just going to make Oregon’s K-9 a human scent and drug dog,” said Navarre.
If the city needs a cadaver dog, the Michigan State Police could provide one, he said. “If we need a dog for bomb detection, there are federal agencies and the University of Toledo that have bomb dogs. That need doesn’t arise much. But scent and drug dogs are needed. Oregon has always had to rely on neighboring agencies for assistance.”
Not only would a K-9 provide needed services in Oregon, added Seferian, “but would be good for morale in the department. They’re really up for it.”