Washington will soon have a police dog patrolling city streets for the first time in nearly two decades and could have four dogs walking the beat by 2015.
City Council unanimously approved the purchase and training of a police dog Thursday night, as the department prepares to restart the K9 unit it disbanded in the late 1990s.
The dog and handler, both of which still must be selected, begin training later this month at Shallow Creek Kennels Inc. near Hermitage.
Council agreed to pay the $8,250 down payment to Shallow Creek, though the dog and its training will cost nearly $15,000.
The first dog will be trained in drug detection and is expected to be on daily patrols in early May.
“This is a way to combat the illegal drugs that are infiltrating the city streets,” Mayor Brenda Davis said
City resident Jim Bauer said he was pleased with the addition of a police dog, but also wanted more officers on the streets in the wake of Wednesday night’s shooting that seriously wounded one man.
“We need a K9 because we have entirely too many drugs in this community,” Bauer said.
Davis said they plan to purchase another police dog later this year and, depending on funding, could expand the department’s K9 unit to four by the end of 2015. The city has raised a total of $40,000 through community donations and grants, including $10,000 from the Ben Roethlisberger Foundation. That money will pay for the first two dogs and outfit a police car with a ventilation system for the animals.
The second dog might be trained in bomb detection and various other multi-purpose police activities, Davis said. She praised the three police officers, whom she did not identify, for volunteering for the assignment and called it a “big responsibility” to become a handler.
“We have (three) police officers who are willing to take this dog into their home and live with their family,” Davis said.
Anticipating the possible expansion to four dogs, the city is applying for a $35,000 U.S. Department of Justice grant that would allow the department to purchase another police vehicle for the unit. Davis called that a long-range plan and did not expect they would utilize that money until next year if the city is awarded the grant.
Later in the meeting, the council formally accepted the resignation of police Officer Peter Jaskiewicz and agreed to hire Daniel Florian as his replacement. Florian must undergo a physical and will be paid an annual salary of $40,868.