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Kenai police looking for support to put dog on the beat

Dogged determination

Posted: Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Kenai Police Department expects to have a dog working the streets by next summer, adding one more element to public safety and one more hurdle for bad guys to face.

Thanks in part to Kenai Peninsula Crime Stoppers Inc., a fund has been set up to accept charitable donations to pay for a police canine unit, something Kenai has not had since 1992.

Chevron USA has already stepped forward with an offer of $7,500 to pay for the dog, according to Police Chief Chuck Kopp.

In fact, Kenai’s new police dog will be named “Chevron.”

Kopp said others in the community who have already expressed their intent to support the program include the Kenai Lions Club, Kenai Veterinarian Hospital, IGA-Country Foods, Safeway, 3 Bears, the Kenai Kennel Club and the Anchorage Police Department.

When the city last had a canine unit, its police dog was used for evidence recovery, searching for something a crime suspect tosses when leaving the scene of a crime; searching for lost children or elderly people who become disoriented; tracking of burglary suspects; drug interdiction during traffic stops; and public relations.

Kopp said a dog is especially helpful at burglary scenes, “because it can clear an area faster due to a dog’s keen sense of smell and hearing.”

“Then it makes it safer for an officer to go into a building,” he said.

A dog’s sense of smell also helps detect drugs that might be in a suspect’s vehicle after the vehicle has been pulled over in a traffic stop.

Kopp said a proposal for a canine unit was submitted to and approved by City Manager Rick Koch, and now the department will begin the process of purchasing and training a dog to work in Kenai.

The dog will come from one of two kennels that raise them — probably VonLiche Kennel — which trains German shepherds and Belgian malanois breeds, according to Kopp.

“The dogs have to go through the academy just like (police) officers,” Kopp said.

In a memo to the city manager, Kopp said the Anchorage Police Department has offered its 12- to 16-week K-9 Officer Academy free of charge to Kenai’s canine handler.

The Kenai handler will be Officer Aaron Turnage, who put together the detailed proposal for reinstituting the canine program.

“Aaron has a real passion for this,” Kopp said.

“It brings another valuable tool for us to provide public safety and the safety of our officers,” he said.

“A canine unit can stop people from attacking and restrain violent individuals,” Kopp said.

Depending on the cost of the dog, initial cost of the program is estimated to be between $12,000 and $13,600, and so far the police department has received commitments of more than $10,000, including the $7,500 pledge from Chevron, according to Kopp.

He expects the annual cost to the city to be less than $2,000.

In addition to working against crime, the police dog would be used as a public relations tool for police, putting on demonstrations for school children and during public events.

“Dogs are fun,” Kopp said.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek@peninsulaclarion.com.



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