By Holly Cook
The Roeland Park Police Department is starting to lay the groundwork to create the first Police Canine Unit in its part of northeast Johnson County after councilmembers Monday gave unanimous support for the RPPD to start fundraising efforts for training and equipment.
RPPD hopes to raise $80,000 through donations and grants to cover the cost of one trained police dog, a new police vehicle outfitted for a canine officer, and other equipment like housing and veterinarian care for the dog.
The dual-purpose canine will be trained in building searches, tracking, officer protection and detecting marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, according to a staff report.
Currently RPPD requests assistance as needed from other local canine units, like those in Leawood, Olathe or Gardner, but if the canine officers are already deployed they may not be able to assist Roeland Park. The time it takes for the K-9 unit to respond can also be costly to an investigation, said RPPD sergeant Cory Honas.
Honas told the council about an incident in which the RPPD used another community’s K-9 unit to locate a suspect who had evaded the police and hidden behind a Roeland Park resident’s home.
“When we can get a K-9 unit it’s a wonderful thing but it’s not always an option,” he said.
Councilmember Tom Madigan said he fully supported the creation of the unit.
“Personally I think the K-9 unit would be a great PR asset for the police department,” Madigan said. “And anything that will protect the public at large and the officers I am all for.”
Councilmember Becky Fast agreed that “if it protects an officer it’s worth it” but asked if there were high enough crime stats in Roeland Park to warrant a K-9 unit.
Honas said that in addition to serving Roeland Park the police dog could also assist neighboring communities in northeast Johnson County.
City administrator Keith Moody said the K-9 unit could be thought of as a regional resource and said it could make sense to ask neighboring communities if they were willing to pitch in financial support.
Honas cautioned against creating a shared program citing concerns the police dog could be stretched too thin by serving multiple communities.
Honas said K-9 units generally sustain themselves financially through seizures the canine officer discovers, noting that police departments receive a percentage of asset seizures. Honas said several Roeland Park business owners had already expressed interest in donating funds for the RPPD K-9 unit.
Chief of Police John Morris said a K-9 unit would give the RPPD a meaningful advantage against criminals.
“Let’s make a difference in Roeland Park,” Morris said.