By Pamela Rensing
MASCOUTAH â€“ The Mascoutah Police Department is in the process of adding a K-9 Unit to their force.Â Police Chief Scott Waldrup said the selection of the new police dog should be made within the next 30 days.
â€śWe have received great interest from our residents and business leaders concerning the Mascoutah Police Department acquiring a K-9 Unit,â€ť stated Waldrup.Â â€śThis unit will be a very beneficial addition to the department, and will serve as a dual-purpose dog which will be state certified in narcotics detection, tracking, and apprehension/officer protection.â€ť
Waldrup explained that a trained K-9 can scent and find an item as small as a cellphone if it has a human scent on it.
The Illinois State Police have five K-9 Units, but due to the size of District 11, they are sometimes unavailable due to other emergencies.
The St. Clair County Sheriffâ€™s Department has one explosives trained K-9 that works at MidAmerica Airport, and two others that are general drug and tracking dogs. As with ISP District 11, due to the size of St. Clair County, they are not always available when time is crucial.
The Mascoutah Police Department has mutual aid agreements with several surrounding communities that could also use the K-9 Unit when necessary.
The MPD K-9 Unit can be used in building searches in cases of alarms (possible burglaries in process), or in school buildings such as the Mascoutah High School.Â â€śDr. Fiegel could request a locker search such as the one completed earlier this year,â€ť explained Waldrup.
Once purchased, the canine and handler will attend the Macon County Sheriffâ€™s K9 Training Academy in Decatur. The eight-weeks of training for the dog and handler is scheduled to start October 5 and should be ready for street duty by the second week of December 2018.
The dog breeds currently being considered are the German Shepherd or Belgian Malinois.Â â€śThere is also a breed that is a mixture of the two.â€ť
Waldrup said that Mascoutah Police Officer Kyle Donovan will be assigned to the new unit.Â â€śHeâ€™s perfect for this assignment.Â His father is a retired K-9 officer for the Illinois State Police.Â There was a police dog in his home for many years,â€ť said Waldrup.Â Donovan has been with the MPD for over four years.
One of the squad cars will be equipped with specialized items such as a kennel and a heat alert system. The total cost for the vehicle renovation should be approximately $5,000.Â There is also the extra cost of leashes, harnesses, specialized collars, food, etc.
Funds have been budgeted for the K-9 dog, equipment, and training, but Waldrup is asking the community for some additional assistance.
â€śAlthough I have not been a K-9 officer, I have been associated with K-9 programs for over 30 years.Â Iâ€™m familiar with the program expenses, as well as the police and K-9 certification process.â€ť
â€śAny K-9 Unit is quite costly for the initial start of the program.Â However, the return and added benefits cannot be calculated by a monetary figure.Â No dollar figure can be placed the first time a K-9 Unit conducts a track resulting in locating a lost child or elderly resident with Alzheimerâ€™s.â€ť
Waldrup said almost every police department with a K-9 Unit relies on financial support from the community it serves.Â â€śThe Mascoutah Animal Clinic has graciously offered to donate their services for medical care of the dog.â€ť
The MPD is asking both businesses and residents for support of this new program.Â Every dollar raised will go directly to equipment and training costs for the K-9 program.Â Donors will be recognized for any contribution made.
Once the K-9 is purchased, Waldrup said photos will be posted on the Mascoutah Police Departmentâ€™s website (www.mascoutah.org/police), Facebook page, and in the Mascoutah Herald.
One of the fundraisers will the selling of t-shirts displaying support for the Mascoutah K-9 program.Â The shirts will be on sale during the Mascoutah Homecoming.
If you would like to make a donation, please contact Police Chief Scott Waldrup at 566-2964, Ext. 112 or City Clerk Kari Haas at 566-2964, Ext. 106.Â Donations can also be mailed to the City of Mascoutah, ATTN: City Clerk, 3 West Main St., Mascoutah, IL 61158.Â Please make your donations by September 1, although donations throughout the year are also sincerely appreciated.