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Greencastle OKs K-9 officer

February 03, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Thanks to a generous donation by one Greencastle family, a four-legged officer will join the Borough Police force as early as this summer and help the small department take a bigger bite out of local crime.

The Greencastle Borough Council voted Monday to accept the donation from a local man who police said offered to pay for a K-9 officer for the department after a personal brush with crime.

Adding a K-9 officer is a big step for the borough, which less than two years ago was a predominately part-time police force.

Police Chief John Phillipy said K-9 officers can cost as much as $15,000, which includes adopting and training.

He also said the borough would need to purchase a cruiser that is equipped for transporting the K-9 officer when on duty. The borough also would pay all food, vet erinary and care costs, which at an estimated 1 percent of the total police budget, he said is negligible.

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Council member Michele Emmett voted against accepting the donation, saying she questioned whether the generosity of the citizen's offer was clouding the council's judgment.

Emmett said she did not see reflected in Phillipy's monthly police reports where there was a need in Greencastle for a dog officer.

"I'm not convinced the criminal offenses or lack there of in this community warrant this addition (to the police force)," she said.

Councilman Craig Myers disagreed with Emmett, saying Greencastle needed to realize it has more crime than it admits.

"Let's not kid ourselves, Greencastle has a drug problem," he said. "To help nab or slow some of the drug problem would be a breath of fresh air for this town."

Phillipy said it has been his experience that the advantages K-9 officers bring to the force outweigh the costs.

With a service life of about seven years, he said there is no way to know all the ways having the dog available will help his officers, but tracking, search and suspect apprehension are just a few.

Citing a recent case in Chambersburg where a K-9 officer was able to locate a piece of key evidence in a homicide case, he said, it is impossible to put a value on the nose of a dog.

In addition to sniffing out crime, he said he would use the dog for public relations by taking it into the schools and around the community.

Wayne Norman, a citizen in the audience, said he was a dog handler for 20 years and said the board was underestimating the cost of a K-9 officer.

"This is not something small to jump into and you need to decide if it will be worth it," he told council.

Phillipy said not only did one family offer to fund hiring a k-9 officer, others have expressed interest in keeping kibble in its bowl.

While the cost of "hiring" and potentially feeding a K-9 cop will be donated, Phillipy said the borough would front the cost of a new cruiser.

Phillipy said there is a fully-equipped K-9 cruiser for sale from the Mount Lebanon Police Department for $5,500.

The 4-1 vote of council authorized Phillipy to negotiate to purchase the cruiser.

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