More police departments adding K9 officers to the force

More police departments adding K9 officers to the force
The cost of K9s to police departments

“Canines train constantly,” says Sgt. Dan Wardlow with the Whitehall Division of Police. “If you’re not doing something at work, you’re doing something at home.”

After serving 26 years in narcotics, Sgt. Wardlow says he jumped at the opportunity to work in Whitehall’s newest police unit with K9s.

“It’s just another tool, he allows me another option to do stuff,” Wardlow explains. “Building searches, I have him. Bomb scares at school, shooting scares, whatever may come up, he’s just another tool we can utilize.”

Adding a police canine unit was one of the top priorities for Whitehall Police Chief Mike Crispen when he joined the division in September 2016.

“I understand the deterrence these dogs bring to a program,” says Crispen.

“Sixty-seven percent of our problem here is theft, which is closely related to fueling the drugs which fuels the violent crime,” he goes on to explain. “So, I go back to – what is a deterrent? One of the things we can do above and beyond what we are doing and canines was a natural fit for that.”

CrimeTracker 10 found several other police agencies in central Ohio adding canines to the force, some of the first time.

  • Ygor started working for the city of London in Madison County in November, becoming the city’s first K9 officer.
  • Circleville police added Harry to the force last fall to replace a canine soon to retire
  • Hilliard police bumped up its K9 force in October with a third canine, bringing the city’s total to 3 teams
  • Dublin police last month reintroduced its k9 unit after staffing shortages stopped the program for the past 2 years
  • Columbus Police are now training their 9th canine to join the team by this summer.

Sgt. Wardlow’s canine is Youg-al, who is dual-purpose and can apprehend suspects along with detecting explosives.

“No matter what you disguise it with, they can pick up the individual odor of what they’re looking for,” Wardlow says of the extensive training the canines undergo to become certified.

“They combine all kinds of distractors that you can imagine, and they combine different elements of each explosive to make sure the dog is picking the explosive itself and not the distractor,” he adds.

The cost of police canines does not come cheap. They can range from $7000-$10,000 and up per dog. Vendors can sometimes double the cost if the dog is dual-purpose, meaning apprehension skills along with narcotics or explosives detection.

In Whitehall, not one taxpayer dollar has been spent. Chief Crispen says funding for the new K9 unit came solely from the Law Enforcement Trust Fund, and not the city budget.

“We have a very, very active narcotics unit here, and that narcotics unit has managed to not only take a lot of drugs off the road but seize a lot of cash from drug dealers,” he says.

Chief Crispen says it’s a rather ironic cycle that cash seized from the war on drugs is used to buy the canines that stop those drugs from coming into the capital city.

Other cities have had to create unique funding opportunities to keep their K9 units operational. Newark police have started a Go Fund Me page to raise $28,000 by next year to replace the city’s two police canines.

The page has raised only a little more than $2,000.

Newark police Sgt. Doug Bline told 10TV without the dogs, it’s a void that is hard to fill.

A few years ago, the Licking County Sheriff’s Office received a donation that allowed it to triple its K9 unit from one to three. Genoa Township police graciously accepted a $10,000 donation from pro-golfer Jason Day a few years ago for a new drug-sniffing dog.

In 2010, Hilliard police nearly disbanded the K9 unit there, but the community came up with $30,000 to keep it. The city now has three K9s working around the clock.

Dublin’s new police K9 Finn cost the city an initial $17,000 however the Dublin Foundation donated $8500 for the yearly cost to upkeep the K9, including costs for vet, boarding, licensing, food, and equipment.

Chief Crispen says he often has people offering to donate money for the K9s. For now, he’s appreciative the city doesn’t yet have to struggle to find the funding for what he considers a much-needed police resource tool.