Police dog may come to Cody – Group strives to get K9s for officers and deputies | Local News

A group of local citizens are concerned about the possibility of increasing the crime rate in Cody. To alleviate the problem, they turn to the help of a four-legged friend.

Jerry Schaefer is the leader of K-9-4Cody, an organization that urges the Cody Police and/or the Park County Sheriff’s Office to acquire at least one police dog. He teams up with Gina Luttenegger, a new Cody resident of Manhattan Beach, California, to help local law enforcement try to acquire a K-9 police dog. In California, Luttenegger and her husband Brian Poor served as K-9 police officers.

Luttenegger worked as a law enforcement officer and helped found and served as a manager for the Cedars-Sinai K-9 security team in California. She said that although the medical center had no previous bomb threats, the K-9 team was a proactive effort to stay ahead of that possibility.

“The city loved it, it made people feel safe,” she said.

Over the past few years, Park County has grown and will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future. With this growth and the likely increase in the rate of tourism, Schaefer considers it inevitable that there will be a relationship to the amount of drugs entering the community. He said a drug-addicted dog could not only serve as an apprehension mechanism, but also as a deterrent for those considering delivering narcotics.

“The drug problem is not going away,” Park County District Attorney Bryan Skoric said. “We have to stay on top.”

Skoric and Park County Commissioner Chairman Dossie Overfield both spoke with Schaefer about the issue and both said they would support getting a law enforcement dog. Neither has any idea where the money would come from to pursue this.

“Whatever sources may come up with it, (I) definitely think I would support it because it’s a worthwhile cost,” Skoric said. “If you look at all the problems drugs are causing in the community, anything we can do to minimize that.”

Park County Sheriff Scott Steward said while he would also support it, he had reservations based on his department’s less-than-stellar track record in handling these types of units. He said a typical K-9 can only be used for about 5-6 years, with success highly dependent on the skill and dedication of the handler.

“If it’s a good fit (with the handler) it can definitely pay off in the long run,” he said. “If it can get drugs off the street, it’s worth it. »

According to the National Police Dog Foundation, police dogs can be used in single or dual purpose roles. Single-use devices are mainly used for patrol tasks or detection tasks. Dual-purpose dogs are trained to combine these tasks as well as tracking, locating lost people, or detecting dead bodies.

According to the NPDF, “When a narcotics K-9 advises his handler that he detected the odor of narcotics while searching the perimeter of a vehicle, the officer has reasonable cause to search the entire vehicle without a warrant. .”

Steward said a dog would be especially helpful in identifying marijuana, which he fears will become more prevalent in the area due to the recent legalization of recreational cannabis in Montana. Luttenegger said a dog could be used for patrols around City Park, while Skoric said that type of patrol could be used at Cody High School.

“They’re doing the best they can with the resources they have,” Schaefer said, describing installing a K-9 program as anything from an abacus to a calculator. “The biggest resource they don’t have is the fucking dog.

“They’re doing the best they can with their hands tied behind them.”

Schaefer and Luttenegger said while the dog will serve law enforcement purposes, it could also provide a positive public relations tool, with many different demonstration opportunities available.

“Who doesn’t love a dog? Everyone loves a dog,” Luttenegger said.

There have been a number of cases over the past year where fentanyl – a very powerful opioid – has been found on people, a trend Skoric described as “extremely frightening”. Unfortunately, Steward said a dog cannot be used effectively to monitor this drug due to its high toxicity.

Steward said the last time the sheriff’s office had a K-9 was around 2006, while Cody police last had one around 2011 but used up to three in the pass.

Cody Police Chief Chuck Baker said the topic of adding a K-9 will be included in his department’s 2022/23 public safety planning retreat this month.

“During this time, we will determine whether or not this can fit with our priorities going forward,” he said.

The steward fears another dog means a lack of long-term commitment. He said his department and the dog handler struggled to be consistent when it came to training and involving the K-9 in day-to-day activities, as well as paying the many miscellaneous fees associated with dog care.

“They have to commit to loving this dog properly,” Schaefer said. “Just like a race car, dogs (must) stay tuned.”

Steward said buying the dog and training him would likely cost at least $5,000. Service dogs like a K-9 unit also require annual recertification, which isn’t available locally, but Schaefer said in conversations with law enforcement in other counties, there are opportunities. to collaborate and pool resources for these efforts. Luttenegger said even after receiving certification, the dog needed about eight hours a week of routine training.

Under Fair Labor Standards Act rules, the dedicated K-9 handler will be entitled to up to 16 overtime hours per month, an annual sum estimated by Steward at approximately $6,000. If an additional member of staff were hired to be the manager, the cost would exceed $100,000. Skoric said local law enforcement would probably have to buy at least two dogs to make it profitable.

“There are a lot of things that come into play besides the initial upfront cost,” Skoric said.

Although the county has $5.7 million and the City of Cody has $1.49 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds that they must spend by 2026, Overfield said she doesn’t would not support the use of this temporary source of money to fund a permanent role. Additionally, the Powell Police Department already has a K-9 that can be used for interagency efforts, flown as far away as Wapiti to apprehend a suspect last summer.

“It takes the east side of Park County, we need one on the west side of Park County,” Schaefer said.

Luttenegger and Schaefer said there are plenty of fundraising opportunities and she would be willing to offer her services for free to help get the program started, while Schaefer said cost shouldn’t be a concern for those who hold the purse strings. He’s under no illusions that it might not drastically reduce drug use, but if it makes any difference, he thinks it’s a worthwhile investment.

“How much is a life worth? How much is your child’s life worth? How much is your grandson’s team worth? Schaefer questioned. “It’s not a big expense basically.”

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