By Dylan McCament, KnoxPages.com Reporter
MOUNT VERNON - The MVPD chief feels that his department has long needed a police dog and hopes to have one on the street before the end of the year, thanks in large part to local fundraising efforts.
Chief Roger Monroe said a police dog could help the department, not only in drug-related investigations, but also in patrol tactics such as officer protection and the pursuit of suspects.
"The rise in drug use is definitely a driving force but it is not the only force," he said, when asked if the rise of drug use in the community in recent years is a motivation behind efforts to create a canine unit. "The unit will be a a tool for helping in the search and seizure of drugs but it would also help with officer safety and liability. There are numerous reasons why a [police] dog is beneficial."
Monroe estimates the overall start up cost for the canine unit to be around $50,000, which includes not only purchasing the dog but also additional equipment, training an officer in handling the dog and providing housing and care for the dog.
"I think once we have the dog, the year-to-year costs will be minimal," he said.
KP File photo of Lasko, who was a K-9 officer for Danville PD
Monroe said there is simply not enough money in the budget to pay for the creation of a canine unit, adding that the department has had to reach out to the public to find other avenues of funding.
The Arms of an Angel Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes drug awareness and community outreach, is spearheading a fundraising campaign called the Police K-9 Funding Project, to help the MVPD purchase a police dog and training. The foundation was created by local residents Dave and Ellen Culbertson in 2009, after the accidental heroin overdose of their son Carl Culbertson. The group's goal is to raise $18,000 by the first of July.
Monroe said that, according to his research, $18,000 would be a sufficient amount to pay for the dog and the training of the officer that will be the dog's handler.
"This is a very in-depth project and we are still in the early planning stages," Monroe said. "It is a long process and has to be done correctly."
Monroe said the MVPD has agreements with neighboring law enforcement
agencies that have canine units such as the Danville Police Department, adding that police dogs have been brought to Mount Vernon for drug interdiction, searches and even for special events for the public. Asked why the MVPD does not have its own canine unit, he said he cannot speak for previous police chiefs but suspects that the reason is a lack of funding.
"I think we should already have a canine unit, because of the issues and dangers we have," Monroe said.
He said other local agencies and companies have reached out to him about helping in efforts to raise money for the canine unit.
"The public has been outstanding in the assistance of this," he said. "There has been overwhelming support. It's been awesome and that does not go unnoticed."
Those who wish to donate to the Arms of an Angel K-9 Funding Project can do so by visiting the website of the Community Foundation of Knox County and Mount Vernon here. Donations are tax deductible.