Winfield Police to start K-9 unit

Published: Saturday, September 12, 2009 7:15 AM CDT
The development of a K-9 unit for the Winfield Police Department has been approved recently, and Winfield Police Chief Danny Parker is looking to the community for support in starting the program.

“We’re going to try to make some contacts in the community, hoping that the community will support this project,” Parker said. “It’s a needed tool to help combat drug traffic.”

A fundraiser barbecue to help police pay for the dog, training and equipment will be held Friday outside the police station, 812 Millington. A donation of $5 is suggested for the meal of grilled burgers, hot dogs, baked beans, chips and a drink.

According to Parker, raising funds locally through community support is the best option to pay for a K-9 dog. He estimates the total startup cost for a K-9 unit to be around $15,000.

“Grants aren’t as much of an option because they offer the dogs themselves, and many of those dogs are rescued dogs,” Parker said. “They are not bred for this type of thing. You have to be very careful in the selection of these animals.”

A handler for the dog has not yet been determined, Parker said, but will come from within the department. A handler trains with, works alongside and cares for the dog.

Out of the many types of K-9 dogs available, including explosives, narcotics, attack, patrol and tracking, Parker would like to purchase a narcotics dog. He hopes eventually to train the dog for tracking as well.

The dog breed Parker is hoping to get is a Belgian Malinois. It is among several breeds commonly used for police K-9 work, but Parker prefers the Belgian Malinois over others for its calm demeanor.

“We want a dog that is good-natured and intelligent,” Parker said, “and most Belgian Malinois are.

“There’s all kinds of concern about an animal like that being a biter. We’re not training this as a patrol (or attack) dog, and Belgian Malinois, as a breed, are very good-natured animals. They love people and are very good around people.”

While police chief of Concordia, Parker formed a K-9 program in the spring of 2006 using a Belgian Malinois. He recalled the friendly nature of the dog used there.

“When the handler would bring him in the police station, he would run by my office,” Parker said. “If I were in there, he’d do a 180 and come in, run around and lay his head on my lap, wanting to be petted. They’re very affectionate animals.”

Parker cited the recent armed robbery case at Babi’s Petro Stop as a situation in which a tracking dog based in Winfield could have changed the outcome of the search for a suspect.

After police spotted the suspect fleeing on foot near Viking and Warren, a Cowley County Sheriff’s deputy chased the suspect into the woods. A perimeter was set up while police waited for a K-9 unit, Basco and handler Sgt. Chad McCluskey of the Augusta Department of Public Safety.

“Basco and Chad arrived within 25 minutes,” Parker said, “but if we could have gotten a dog there within the first 10 minutes, we would have probably been in a little better shape as far as the tracking goes. The longer a period of time you have to wait, the further distance a suspect can get.”

Parker said Winfield’s K-9 and handler would be made available as mutual aid to area police departments. Basco and Sgt. McCluskey also operate on a mutual aid status with Winfield and other communities, Parker said.

Once trained for tracking, the K-9 can also be used to help locate missing persons, according to Parker.

The dog can pick up a scent known to belong to a child or adult who has wandered off and then follow the scent trail.

The same concept is used for tracking evidence in criminal cases, Parker said.

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