In the near future, Rover could take over on some calls to police due to a proposal by Police Chief Lester Jenkins. Approval to reinstate the police canine program was on the agenda for the Tuesday, Sept. 3, Oakdale City Council meeting. The session was held past press time for this week’s issue of The Leader; see the full story in the Sept. 11 edition.
The department previously had a police canine program that was abandoned in 2008 due to budgetary constraints.
Jenkins stated that having the canine unit on a “cover shift” would be of great assistance since a canine is much like a two person unit and is far superior at building searches and capturing suspects that are resisting or fleeing.
Jenkins also stated a canine unit would enhance relations between the department and citizens since “nearly everyone loves dogs and likes to see them working to help keep the city safe.”
With the department size down to only an authorized 21, but in reality merely 17 due to two city manager-mandated vacancies, another officer off injured, and one officer who recently resigned, patrol units have to be staffed with one sergeant and just two officers even with fairly high call volumes on both day and night shifts.
The department is in the process of filling the recently departed officer position and had scheduled a badge pinning of a new officer for the Sept. 3 meeting. Ten reserve officers also assist in staffing some of the vacancies as of late.
The canine program is made possible through $21,000 in local donations.
Steve’s Chevrolet donated $16,000 to the police department for the purchase and training of a canine unit. Another local group, Beta Sigma Phi Sorority, donated $5,000 to the program as well. The department anticipates additional promised donations that will bring the total to $25,000 or more.
The donated funds are for the purchase, training and outfitting of a police canine unit.
Jenkins informed the city in his proposal that after researching several local canine vendors, “Top Dog Police K-9 Training and Consulting” of Modesto was selected.
The cost for a certified dog from this company is $6,200 to $6,800. Training expenses for the selected officer and dog are budgeted at $2,800 for a total of $9,600.
Canine units require a special equipped vehicle outfitted with platforms, a remote “door pop,” a screen, and enhanced air conditioning. The vehicle of choice in the law enforcement industry is generally an SUV. Jenkins is proposing the city purchase an SUV as a canine vehicle.
In addition to their cash donation for the canine unit, Steve’s Chevrolet is offering the department a 2003, two-wheel drive Chevrolet Tahoe with low mileage available in their used vehicle inventory for just over $9,000.
According to Jenkins, the vehicle was inspected by Scott McHenry, the city’s mechanic, and was determined to be in very good condition for a 10-year old vehicle.
“I’m so excited to see the department get the canine program up and running again,” said Oakdale Police Sergeant Brian Shimmel who worked on the proposal.
Shimmel said the department was looking at a variety of breeds and seemed to like a cross breed between a German shepherd and a Belgium Malinois that was available from Top Dog Police K-9. No determination on the actual dog has been made.
Shimmel also said that the department has already chosen Officer Andy Stever to be its canine handler.
“Andy’s worked with a variety of dogs before,” said Shimmel. “He’s got the experience and is very enthused about the position.”