The Maple Grove Police Department will be becoming a little bigger by this time next year.
The department received the approval from the Maple Grove City Council Aug. 7, for the implementation of a police canine unit and one canine handler in March 2018.
Back in November 2016, the council discussed a general proposal for the implementation of a police canine unit at a special meeting.
Maple Grove Police Chief Eric Werner said, “We saw a need for a K-9 unit and brought the request to the city council, who also saw the benefits of having it.”
The general cost estimate to implement one dog unit, which would include the purchase of a dog, K-9 Unit Basic training, purchase of a required vehicle and the purchase of needed operational equipment was estimated to be $78,500.
At that time, the council directed staff to obtain an alternative to the overtime compensation for a canine handler as stated in the current police officer’s union contract. A memorandum of agreement rescinding the current contract language and providing new compensation language was drafted and reviewed by the city administrator, chief of police, human resources director and city’s labor attorney at a council workshop on July 17.
The memorandum of agreement was approved by the police officer’s union June 9.
The cost of the Police Canine Unit will be initially paid for from the Alcohol Compliance Fine account, with the account to be reimbursed by fund raising. Chief Werner said its important to know that no General Fund tax dollars will be used.
“It’s really exciting for the police department,” Chief Eric Werner said. “This is something that is a big deal for the community and police department.”
It has been over 20 years since the Maple Grove Police Department had a K-9 unit, which ended to lack of funding.
“In 2014 and 2015 each, there were 70 incidents where we needed to use a K-9 and K-9 handler,” Chief Werner said. “We were able to provide for that need by outside agencies. Unfortunately, we lost that resource.”
Chief Werner added the department has only been able to handle a fraction of the incidents that need a K-9.
Councilor Phil Leith said, “Over the years, I’ve had a lot of residents have asked about a canine unit. This is something we did have two work sessions on that were open to the public. The usage for canines is up.”
According to Chief Werner he has also heard from the community throughout the years at DARE graduations, Citizens Police Academy and National Night about when the police department was getting a K-9 unit.
Chief Werner added that there are benefits to having a K-9 unit as part of the police department.
“Our officers could do their work more effectively and safely,” Chief Werner said. “K-9 also save time with their abilities. For example, if we’re searching for a missing person or article, K-9s are much more effective at that. And also, community outreach. This is going to be a tremendous tool for us to go out and building relationships with our community.”
This approval by the City Council for the Police Canine Unit also authorizes staff to conduct necessary pre-work needed for implementation. This includes: selecting a handler from the patrol division, securing a canine, scheduling required training, purchase of equipment and vehicle, department policy development, fund-raising and other administrative needs.
“I want say thank you to the city council and city administrator for their assistance and support through the discussions,” Chief Werner added.
He said the K-9 unit will begin working in 2018. Chief Werner said he would be to go before the council the following year in 2019 and ask the council for a second dog. The ultimate goal is for the Maple Grove Police Department to have two K-9 units.
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