How much is that police doggie in the window?
For Belmont Police Chief Richard McLaughlin, a $24,000 gift from a resident who wished to remain anonymous will now allow the department to have its first ever K-9 officer.
The Belmont Board of Selectmen voted unanimously on Monday, Jan. 7 to accept the gift to allow the Belmont Police Department to purchase a dog and fund the initial and added training as well as covering the cost of veterinary care and food for three years.
"I can't thank this person enough for allowing the department to have this opportunity," said McLaughlin.
Whenever Belmont required a K-9 unit to assist in tracking down a suspect or search for drugs in a vehicle, it would need to send out a request to the Arlington Police or other jurisdictions which is a time-consuming effort, according to McLaughlin.
Having a dog and a handler on the force "is a force multiplier," according to McLaughlin, since it will increase officer safety by allowing the dog to sweep buildings to search for possible breaking-and-entering suspects and track down suspects outside. The dog will also assist in securing evidence.
Outside of basic police work, K-9 units have been used across the country to track lost children and find older residents with dementia.
"This is a tool and resource that will enhance our work," said McLaughlin.
Already four officers have expressed interest in becoming Belmont's K-9 officer, said McLaughlin, who is requiring any officer to make a commitment of several years as the dog and officer are trained as a single unit.
The Boston Police Academy has a 14-week training session that begins in March which is the earliest that Belmont can begin training. A dog will be selected to a specific officer. The dog – between 18 months and two years old – and handler will first bond for a couple of weeks and then spend the three-and-a-half months training together on police procedures before going into the community for the first time.
Later the dogs can be trained for specialized work such as narcotics dectection.
"It's been a huge success in Arlington and it is worth having here," said McLaughlin.
As for a name for the newest member of the department?
"They already come with one so we won't be able to name it," said McLaughlin. "We don't want to confuse them," he said.