MERRILL, Wis. (WSAU) - More law enforcement agencies are working to start or grow their K9 officer programs. Merrill Police have received a grant that ensures the department will get their first ever dog.
Police Chief Kenneth Neff is very excited about the opportunity to implement a K9 program. “It’s something that we’ve talked about for a number of years, and thanks to the generosity of the Bierman Family Foundation, we received some funding to get started on that K9 unit.”
The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department had a K9 program a number of years ago, and Neff says the City of Merrill has never had one, so he’s looking forward to getting their own police K9 to search for people, drugs, and even help with public relations. Right now, they request mutual aid from outside of the county when they need the services of a police dog. “Typically, it’s been Wausau PD, sometimes Tomahawk PD now that they have a K9 unit, so whenever there’s a need for it, we’ll call around to see if one is available to help us, but typically, that’s a good half-hour wait before a K9 is up to whatever incident we need it at.”
With drug problems growing statewide, the need for a good K9 unit has also grown. Neff says with only one dog in the county at Tomahawk, he sometimes doesn’t get a K9 when he needs one. “The average is about ten times a month that we’re calling for some assistance, and I’m sure some of those were not recorded that I wasn’t able to find one, but since July, we’ve requested a K9 forty times that I can document, anyway.”
Neff says the Merrill Police Department will attempt to select the partner and handler for the new dog in November, and perhaps acquire the dog by spring or early summer.
Merrill Police now have enough to get the dog, but they are still taking donations to help pay for the dog’s care over the next several years. They figure it will be about $90,000 over the next five to seven years to obtain and care for the K9 officer, as well as provide some of the funds to locate the dog’s replacement at that time. Neff says the donations they’ve received so far will take them through about the first three years of a K9 program.
Chief Neff is hoping to keep the K9 program going without using tax dollars or any additional staff.
(Chief Neff's interview can be heard in our Newsmaker's Interview podcast section, here.)