Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Safety commission wants drug dog

 

April 19, 2018



The Haines Borough Public Safety Commission recommended the borough research purchasing a drug-sniffing dog for the police department.

Officer Chris Brown, who has five years of experience working in a K-9 unit, said a police dog could be valuable for sniffing methamphetamines and opioids at the ferry terminal, the post office, the Canadian border, on charter planes and personal boats.

“All drugs have an odor…it may not be something that we can pick up, but a dog can,” he said. “We could use three dogs in this town, easily.”

He offered that the Skagway police department or the U.S. Coast Guard could also make use of a drug-sniffing dog.

Brown said the legalization of marijuana in the state has caused a challenge in finding hard drugs. “With legalization, a smell of marijuana doesn’t automatically mean an arrest that could lead to finding hard drugs,” Brown said. He said having a drug-sniffing dog could circumvent that problem.

“A dog has skills that we just don’t have. It’s a guarantee to help with the drug problem,” Brown said.

Commissioner Paul Rogers said although he supports having a dog in Haines, he is concerned that the borough can’t afford it, given the proposed $75,000 draw on the borough’s reserve funds to balance next year’s budget.

Officer Josh Dryden said a police dog, which would likely be a Labrador retriever, and the associated training could cost upwards of $40,000. But he said there are other ways to fund having the animal.

Anchorage’s dog program, which supports five or six dogs, is funded by a nonprofit organization. Other small communities like Petersburg, Hoonah and Sitka had drug-sniffing dogs in the past.

Kit Brown, Brown’s wife, said, “You are not looking at buying an animal, you’re looking at buying another police officer that is not going to cost you a police salary.” She said the borough could look at the cost as a number on paper or they could consider it as an investment in the safety of the community.

“Just having a dog here is going to discourage people,” Dryden said. “A dog would be another item in our tool belt to move the drugs out of town.”

Police chief Heath Scott said he sees having a drug-sniffing dog as a “vital need” in the police department.

Southeast Alaska prosecutor Amy Page said from her experience, every dog works with a specific handler. Dogs can do general sweeps of an area but are used mostly to search specific items when police have a reasonable suspicion that drugs are involved. Part of the handler and dog training, some of which is free through the Alaska State Troopers, is to teach officers how and when the drug-sniffing dogs are allowed to be used in investigations.

Community members Greg Podsiki and Tammy Piper spoke in favor of Haines getting a drug-sniffing dog. Podsiki said a dog has the potential to save lives. Piper said a police dog is a good idea because “I believe we have a big issue in this town and people are wearing blinders.”

 
 

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