Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868
Independence Police Officer Tim Ragan says it may take two years to raise money and train a police dog, but the wait would be worth it.
October 30, 2012
INDEPENDENCE -- Officer Tim Ragan said he wasn't there for that stop in Independence when Vader, the Polk County Sheriff's Office's now retired drug detection dog, helped out in a search. The story about it makes him smile, though.
Ragan said Independence Police had called for assistance at a home believed to have narcotics hidden inside.
The occupants of the residence were less than cooperative, but quickly relented once Vader exited the patrol car and barked.
"What I heard was they basically said `Here's where the drugs are,'" Ragan said. "The dog didn't even get into the house to smell around."
Ragan's on a mission to get his department a dog of its own. He's trying to restart Independence Police's canine unit, which ended in 1999 when Jim the German Shepherd left with his handler to become a cop in Beaverton.
To be sure, Independence can't currently afford the estimated $40,000 it would take to purchase a dog, train it and its handler, retrofit a police car and all of the other expenses.
As such, Ragan's proposing a drug detection dog program funded entirely by grants, donations and community support.
"A dog will never be able to replace an actual officer," Ragan said. "But it's an added resource and a tool that will help us minimize the amount of time and cost we spend associated with drug cases."
Ragan, Central School District's resource officer until that position was cut in 2011, has the city's blessing -- though no funding -- on this project.
Polk County's Sheriff's Office lost its two dogs this summer, the only canine units in the county; besides Vader, a search and rescue dog was lost to budget cuts.
Rhonda Sandoval, treasurer of the Oregon Police Canine Association and a McMinnville Police sergeant, said she hasn't seen a reduction in the number of police dogs being used in the state, though establishing them from scratch is tricky.
"If there's not strong administrative support, it's doomed to failure," she said.
The animal will likely come from a professional police dog vendor from Europe, Ragan said. Dogs alone can cost $10,000, not including training.
Oregon law also requires a canine team to have a minimum of 360 hours of training before the pair can work the streets or pass OPCA certification.
It will cost McMinnville roughly $3,000 this year for expenses for each of its four dogs, not including the extra 5 percent a handler/officer earns for housing and caring for it, Sandoval said.
Independence has had canine units twice, the first time in 1987 with a German Shepherd named Loba and Jim almost a decade later. Both left when their handlers took other jobs.
Independence had 70 drug cases in 2011 and 48 the year before. Having a dog makes a big difference during investigations, said Polk Sheriff's Lt. Jeff Isham.
"It's a resource saver," Isham said. "On a search warrant, where you might have to pull out every drawer, go through every pair of jeans and look through every cranny in a house, it's labor intensive.
"If you're able to run a dog through that same house, it will give you an indication of where you should be concentrating," he added. "It cuts down significantly on time spent there."
Ragan said it may take at least two years to raise the money for a dog and to undergo training.
"I won't be disappointed though if it doesn't happen before then," he said.
You Can Help
* Interested in helping Independence Police start a canine unit? Community members can send tax-deductible donations to the MICF/Independence K-9 Fund, P.O. Box 7, Independence, OR 97351. You can also write short letters explaining why you support such a program, or contribute a service or supplies related to having a police dog. For more information: 503-838-1214.