June 19, 2024

Newton Police to add narcotics K9 dog

The Newton Police Department will add a narcotics K9 unit as part of the department’s drug initiative program to target drug activity within the community.

The Newton City Council on Monday gave unanimous approval to move forward with the project at its regular meeting. The approval is the first step in bringing various parts of the program before the council for final approval and funding.

“We’re looking at a comprehensive approach to the narcotics issue in Newton. We’re looking at a big picture approach that includes an education and prevention element, an enforcement element that is going to tie into the K9 unit and a treatment and rehabilitation element,” Newton Police Chief Rob Burdess said. “The narcotics dog would put us closer to giving us more of an advantage when we’re going in the enforcement element.”

Burdess said although the department’s enforcement efforts are consistent, they could be enhanced and be more effective with the implementation of the narcotics K9 program.

With changes made by the state and federal governments narrowing the interpretation of the Fourth Amendment, law enforcement’s ability to effectively enforce narcotics related offenses have been limited nationwide, Burdess said. A specially trained narcotics K9 would mitigate many of the investigative barriers and also provide a higher level of investigative resources that would be used on traffic stops as well as during searches at homes, businesses and schools.

“Often times we know there are drugs in the house but we couldn’t find them because we don’t have that resource,” Burdess said. “At least this will give us the opportunity to know if we do or not. It will put us one step ahead in the game.”

The cost of the program totals more than $56,000 with $46,000 used to purchase a specialized vehicle and squad equipment. The dog itself and training with a handler will be $5,200 with an additional $5,000 set aside for kenneling the animal at its home.

Funding for the project will come from several areas including bond issue money. The NPD will also solicit $5,000 to $10,000 in donations and local grants.

Burdess has been working with Midwest K9 located in Des Moines to purchase the dog, but it is currently unknown what breed of dog will be purchased.

“The unique thing about them is they take rescue dogs and turn them in to police working dogs,” Burdess said.

Because the animal is a rescue, it comes at a more affordable price than its purebred counterpart Burdess said. It also gives an animal a purpose that otherwise may not have had a bright future.

The annual maintenance expenses for the program are expected to total close to $6,000 depending on the number of donations the program receives.

“We’re looking for a hunting breed, that are often smaller dogs, a 40 to 50 pound dog. Often they are much healthier and able to last longer in service,” Burdess said.

In addition to the breed of the dog, the handler or police officer who will be trained to work with the K9 unit has not been determined. The dog is expected to be trained in narcotics, but the animal will also serve a dual purpose as a trailing dog.

“If we had a missing child, Alzheimer patient or a criminal this dog would have the knowledge and the training to track that person down,” Burdess said.

Having the animal on hand can make a big difference in a case, Burdess said. Currently, if the department needs to utilize a local animal, it can take more than the allotted 10 to 20 minutes allowed by regulations to get the animal to the scene, making it a wasted exercise. He said on average it takes 45 minutes to one hour to get a dog from another agency.

“We tried to use one the other night during the Casey’s robbery and it took an hour and a half to get one out of Poweshiek County. That is a lot of time that we lost where we maybe could have caught them while they were close,” Burdess said.

The council had unanimous support for the program and the work that the department is doing to curb any drug problems in Newton.

“I support this. I think this a great tool for the police department,” council member Craig Trotter said. “They obviously need this, I get a lot of questions or statements about the drug problems or what is going on and how can we fix it.”

Council member Jeff Price said a lot of the comments he receives from citizens are related to what is being done about the drug problem in town.

“I think this is just another tool to help the NPD,” Price said.

Council member Noreen Otto agreed.

“This is every bit as important as every other issue or any other initiative that we would do with the police department,” Otto said. “I always talk about what are the things that the city really needs to fulfill our responsibilities as a city government, I think this is one of the primary purposes.”

Since this program hopes to get part of its funding from donations and grants, Mayor Mike Hansen said it would be a great opportunity for those looking to help to put their efforts towards a tool to make Newton a safer community.

“Folks will ask me from time to time, what can we do to help? This is an opportunity for the community to help with the ongoing costs for this particular tool for the police department. I’m sure that without a doubt ... this tool will certainly be a needed one to ramp up our enforcement efforts,” Hansen said.

In other business:

• The council approved the position of community service attendant for the Newton Police Department, replacing the parking meter attendant position.

• Also approved was the creation of two sergeant positions in the NPD, replacing the vacant lieutenant position.

• New playground equipment for Aurora Park was approved at a price of $49,999 from Cunningham Recreation of Charlotte, NC. The new equipment includes one playground structure, a zip line and new swings.

Contact Jamee A. Pierson at 641-792-3121 ext. 6534 or jpierson@newtondailynews.com