Changes to EPPD prompt reconsideration of K9 program – Estes Park Trail-Gazette

At the Estes Park Police Department (EPPD), we are committed to maintaining the trust of the community by providing the best public safety services. Community members rate our services among the best year after year. Our commitment to you includes constantly evaluating our operations and services, striving to balance the needs of our community with the resources available to us. One of our highest priorities as a department is working to align our staffing with the ever-increasing number of calls for law enforcement assistance of all types in our jurisdiction. The service has seen an approximately 14% increase in service calls since 2019 and a 16% increase in 911 calls since 2019. The City and our elected council are committed to meeting our staffing needs. But it is also our responsibility to maximize our return on your investment in us. With this in mind, I have made the difficult decision to discontinue the EPPD K9 program and redirect resources to other priorities.

It will certainly be a disappointment for many members of the community, as for us. So I would like to share the thought process behind this decision. The K9 unit consists of one dog, “Diego”, and a single officer, who have trained intensively and continuously since the start of the partnership in 2019. The program was put in place with support community and considerable donations. From day one, the Officer and K9 have been a highly valued part of the EPPD team and an important resource for Estes Park. However, the K9 agent elected to move to a new agency later this summer – an agency that does not require a K9 unit. We are disappointed to see our Officer go, but we are delighted with his new opportunity.

Besides saying goodbye to our K9 officer, we saw less need for Diego’s specialist skills here at Estes Park than we had anticipated. While this is a good sign for our community, it means their training and skills are underutilized. Since 2019, Diego has been deployed 89 times to Estes Park and partner jurisdictions. The majority of these deployments have been for community educational events and demonstrations, and simple traffic sniffing. A small portion of his deployments have been for tracking, criminal arrest or searching for buildings, evidence and narcotics – these high-level duties are his specialties by training. Many of those deployments have taken Diego outside of Estes Park to support partner agencies like Loveland and Greeley.

You may be wondering how this affects our staffing needs. Well, the K9 officer’s time is divided between regular patrols and special K9 assignments. Additionally, the required training takes the officer out of town with Diego once or twice a week. This means much less availability for daily patrols here at Estes Park. Increasing patrol quarter coverage is our top priority. With that in mind, hiring a non-K9 officer who can be dedicated to patrol will be a better use of our current resources.

Estes Park will continue to be supported by neighboring partner agencies with all the specialist resources we need, such as K9s. The EPPD can always consider resuming a K9 program in the future. In the meantime, I am dedicated to my research to find the right agency to integrate Diego into his K9 programs, with a trained agent to complement his skills and personality. I want to thank all of you – our community policing partners – for your continued support of our team. As friends, neighbors and public servants, we simply couldn’t do it without you. For more information on the EPPD, please visit www.estes.org/pd or contact me at [email protected]

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