By Dylan McCament, KnoxPages.com Reporter
MOUNT VERNON - A police dog should be on patrol in the city in the not-so-distant future, thanks in large part to a successful community fundraising drive.
A small crowd gathered at City Hall on Friday when city officials were presented with a check for $18,000 that will help establish a canine unit for the Mount Vernon Police Department.
Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Mavis praised local resident Dave Culbertson for spearheading the campaign that raised the $18,000 through his local "Arms of an Angel K-9 Fund Drive."
"With the drug epidemic as heavy as it is in our community and throughout the state and nation, drug dogs have proven to be great assets to police departments," Mavis said.
He said, in the past, the city has lacked the funding needed to create a canine unit, but added that the $18,000 will serve as a "beginning point" for the purchase of the police dog as well as related training and equipment costs.
"Because of his attitude towards this epidemic, Dave Culbertson and his organization moved forward," Mavis said "And in doing so, I think, surprised us all."
Culbertson said he is very proud of the community for their donations, adding that 60 percent of the donations came from the community itself in relatively small amounts such as $5, $10, and $20. He said the drive has actually raised about $21,500 and the fundraising for an additional canine unit will continue.
"We all know why we're here," Culbertson said. "I don't know anyone out there who doesn't know someone - either a direct family member or someone else close to you - who hasn't been affected by the drug and opiate crisis, especially in the last few years."
He said he and his wife met with city officials last December after learning that the Mount Vernon Police Chief Roger Monroe had spoken publicly about their need for a canine unit. Culbertson said they settled on a figure of $18,000, which would be needed to purchase the dog, to retrofit a vehicle for the canine unit and other start up costs.
"It would have been easy to go to one or two community leaders and say we need $18,000," he said. "But we didn't want to do it that way. We wanted it to be our town, our dog."
Culbertson said they used social media to get to help solicit donations; a bake sale was held; an auction was held. He thanked business owners that allowed small donation jars to be set up in their stores.
Chief Monroe told members of the crowd that the canine unit will employ a "dual purpose dog that helps with drug patrol and indentification as well as help with protection of officers."
He said that there was a recent drug-related stand off in the city in which a canine unit would have been very helpful. Monroe said the Danville Police Department's canine unit helped the MVPD handle the incident and has helped in the past.
"Having those resources, in our own city, obviously for response time, would definitely help us. In addition to helping with the drug epidemic, it will also help with the protection of our officers and dangerous situations that we are now facing because of the opiate problem."
Monroe added that he would like to add two more police dogs to the force before his time as chief is over.
Culbertson said the canine unit should be ready to go by December. He said fundraising efforts for additional canine units for both the MVPD and for the Knox County Sheriff's Office will intensify in the near future.
Left to right: City Auditor Terry Scott, MVPD Chief Roger Monroe, Mayor Richard Mavis, Dave Culbertson, MVPD Sgt. Troy Glazier at Friday's check presentation for a MVPD K-9 unit. KnoxPages.com photo by Dylan McCament