ROCKPORT, Maine — The local police department might soon get a dog, which the chief hopes could find drugs while helping to retain employees.
The board of selectmen will decide if it should accept a $20,000 donation that would fund the purchase of a dog, training for the dog and its handler, and care of the animal.
The dog would be used primarily for drug searches. Last month the police department searched Camden Hills Regional High School’s parking lot for drugs after school officials found bath salts in the school. In that instance, Rockport police had to call in dogs from the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, which is about 30 miles away.
“The idea is we would use this dog as our primary,” said Police Chief Mark Kelley. “We would still call in other dogs for assistance.”
If the board accepts the donation at its Dec. 12 meeting, the police department would plan to buy an untrained dog and pair it with an officer who is inexperienced with police dogs. The pair would then participate in a four-month, full-time training program and then another two-month, drug-search-only training program.
Aside from basic drug searches, Kelley expects that the dog could act as a draw to bring new officers to the department and to retain its current six full-time officers.
“We’ve been fortunate lately to not have turnover, but in a town like this staff can go to Camden or Rockland where there are more opportunities. We don’t have a carrot to dangle,” Kelley said. “If we had a dog, well, Camden and Rockland don’t have a dog.”
Although he recognized there could be unexpected costs, Kelley said he doesn’t expect the town to have to pay anything for the dog. The $20,000 donation from The Cascade Foundation will help pay for a dog, which can cost about $5,000, and the training, which is about $3,000, and other expenses. He is seeking additional donations from the community for dog food and to cover veterinary expenses.
If everything is approved, the department could have the dog on duty by September.