Councilors consider adding new K9 to police departmentCloquet Police Chief Wade Lamirande told the Cloquet City Council Tuesday that the department would like to pursue getting at least one new dog, to be trained in controlled substance detection.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
When the Cloquet Police Department first established its K9 program in 2000, officers were optimistic about the ways a trained police dog would help the department.
They had no idea just how good their new officer, Tessa, would actually be.
Tessa and her handler, Cloquet Sergeant Detective Scott Holman, were responsible for the recovery of more than a million dollars’ worth of illegal drugs in Carlton County and surrounding areas. Her teamwork with Holman also led to the arrest of thousands of criminals and drug traffickers, many of whom plied the I-35 corridor between Minneapolis and Duluth as well as Highway 33 up to the Iron Range.
Since Tessa was euthanized in late August, the Cloquet Police Department has been without a K9, although they have had assistance from a Department of Natural Resources K9 in recovering two different weapons in recent weeks.
Cloquet Police Chief Wade Lamirande told the Cloquet City Council Tuesday that the department would like to pursue getting at least one new dog, to be trained in controlled substance detection as Tessa was, with additional training in human scent and article detection and/or hold and seize apprehension also possible at additional expense and training time.
In his staff report, Lamirande noted that both the department and drug traffickers have learned a lot over the past 13 years.
“With the pressure from law enforcement, drug traffickers have become more ingenious in the way that they hide their contraband,” he said. “We have seen firsthand the benefit of having a trained K9 to located controlled substances that have been hidden in vehicles, many times in areas that may not have been discovered without the presence of a K9 unit.”
Lamirande said two officers have expressed interest in being the handler should the department get a new dog, but advocated that Holman be the first choice because of his training and track record, as well as the fact that the city won’t have to pay for the eight weeks of training required for a new handler.
Holman was also present at the meeting Tuesday to answer any questions from city councilors or staff.
“Scott, when you look at the timeframe you had the dog, is there a sense that it was a deterrent for some of the drug traffic?” City Administrator Brian Fritsinger asked Holman.
“Absolutely,” Holman said. “I was told by numerous people we arrested that a lot of people feared coming through Carlton County and Cloquet because of the proactive stance we took.”
Lamirande estimated the cost of purchasing a fully-trained K9 at between $6,500 and $7,500, which would pay for the dog, travel associated with getting the animal, training and a health guarantee for one year. The ongoing costs for training and care of a K9 averages about $5,000 a year, he noted in his report.
The Cloquet Police Department already had $10,000 in a fund from hosting the USPCA Canine National s in 2009, and recently received an anonymous donation of $3,000 to go toward a new K9. Lamirande is also planning a fundraising effort to help further defray the costs of purchasing, training and equipping a new dog.
The department already has a vehicle equipped for a K9, although Lamirande said that they would like to outfit a four-wheel drive unmarked vehicle to carry a dog and its handler in the future, especially now that Holman is a detective.
Ward 4 Councilor Kerry Kolodge, a lieutenant in charge of the Major Crimes Bureau at the Duluth Police Department, asked if the department had compared the cost of maintaining a dog to the money gained through forfeitures from arrests.
“We were always well above costs in forfeiture recovery,” Holman said, affirming that the program basically pays for itself and then some.
Lamirande talked about other ways the K9 program assisted the Cloquet Police Department and numerous other law enforcement agencies in the area that called upon Tessa and Holman for assistance.
“[Being an award-winning dog] she also added to our credibility in court,” he said. “People knew she was a top-notch dog. Then you look at the street value of the confiscated narcotics and drugs that she helped take off the street.”
At-large Councilor Barb Wyman suggested the council consider getting double the benefit by buying two dogs.
“I’d like to continue with what we have,” Lamirande said. “But we do have a second officer who is interested, so if the council wants to approve a second dog, that would be fine.”
Lamirande wasn’t looking for a council decision Tuesday, just a discussion. Fritsinger said a vote could come as soon as the next council meeting on Oct. 16, if the staff report is complete and Lamirande has an exact recommendation for what kind of training the dog would have.