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City Council shows interest in K-9 program here

With the thought of making Sunnyside a place criminals would want nothing to do with, the Sunnyside City Council last night, Monday, mulled over the possibility of starting up a K-9 program at a workshop held before the regularly scheduled meeting.

Sunnyside Police Officer Skip Lemmon put together a presentation highlighting the benefits of having a K-9 unit on hand.

"A police dog is a valuable and indispensable tool used in the performance of modern day policing," Lemmon told the council. "The K-9 is capable of locating criminals who have otherwise escaped arrest and is willing to sacrifice their safety to protect their handler and the citizens of our community."

In the past year the Sunnyside Police Department has handled 12 felony eluding cases, more than 229 drug arrests and a number of alarm calls. Lemmon said a K-9 would have been a great tool in dealing with these crimes.

The dogs aren't cheap. Lemmon checked a few places where K-9s are sold and the cheapest price for a patrol dog was in the range of $5,500 to $7,000.

The price included entry level training but didn't include narcotics training. Lemmon did say that a police officer in Prosser has volunteered to put together a narcotics training program if Sunnyside gets a K-9 and would train the dog free of charge.

Once the K-9 is here the dog and its handler would be required to train 16 hours each month.

Councilwoman Theresa Hancock liked the idea of a K-9 on the force but was wary about implementing the program this year, stating that the council just passed the budget and would like to wait until 2011.

Hancock also wanted to see the costs laid out for council. Besides the 16 hours a month the K-9 team must train, the K-9 handler is paid one hour of a day's salary to care for the animal. There was also talk of purchasing a new vehicle for the K-9 team and it must be fitted with equipment for the dog.

For instance, if the K-9 is in the vehicle and the handler needs it, the officer can push a button on the duty belt that will open the door for the K-9. The device is known as a K-9 door popper.

Other equipment needed would be training devices, a kennel for the vehicle, a muzzle and dog food. Lemmon estimated the K-9 would consume up to 600 lbs. of food a year.

He did say that Sherrie Hockett of Pet Health Care in Sunnyside would provide free vet care.

Councilman Paul Garcia asked how long the K-9 would be expected to serve. Lemmon said the longevity of a K-9 is about five to six years.

Councilman Don Vlieger expressed his desire to start this program immediately, stating that it would take at least five months from the start of the program to see a K-9 in the field. Vlieger liked the idea so much he said he would like to see two or three K-9s if the first one worked out.

The K-9 is expected to cut down on drug traffic in Sunnyside. The increase in drug arrests from a K-9 is expected to result in property seizures that would help offset the costs of the K-9 program.

The topic will be discussed at a later date.

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