K-9 police program approved for Snoqualmie

Pooch will be used for educational purposes as well as police work

In a unanimous vote, Snoqualmie City Council members chose to implement a narcotic detection K-9 program during a meeting on Nov. 25.

“Every step we took… the council and Public Safety Committee has always supported us, which is great,” said Snoqualmie Police Chief Perry Phipps on the process of starting the program.

In May of this year, the police department had requested approval to explore the possible program. It calls for a single-purpose drug detection dog and a K-9 handler in charge of the specially-trained pooch. The handler also would require special coaching.

Currently, the police department is without its own dog trained to find illegal narcotics. When one is needed, it’s brought in from elsewhere to find cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin. That can pose a problem when the response is time sensitive, and when the King County Sheriff’s Office and Washington State Patrol already have their hands full and can’t respond.

But the dog won’t only be used for tracking down suspects and illegal drugs, it’ll also serve as an educational tool. Phipps said the plan is to increase the awareness of the signs of drug trafficking behavior and of the dangers of drug use. That kind of work can be done during school visits.

“If we can start the conversation early on, we may be able to speak [to] community members who are vulnerable to addictions prior to them trying drugs,” a past staff report stated. “Ultimately, if we can prevent one person from starting a drug addiction, the program would have been worth it.”

Phipps said the immediate next step is fundraising for the dog, which can cost anywhere between $5,000 and $7,000. The price tag goes up when the needed 200 hours of handler training is factored in. Phipps said he hopes to not impact the city budget.

According to a city memo, a nonprofit by the name “Friends of Snoqualmie Valley K9” would be founded to take in the contributions to fund the program. Any additional needed money will be obtained through an asset forfeiture fund account, the document reads.

And there may be future budget considerations during the next city budget period to buy a new K-9 car for long-term transportation needs. For the time, the memo indicates that a Washington State Patrol car, available for purchase through Washington State surplus, may offer a solution for the dog’s transportation. The 2011 Ford Crown Victoria already comes equipped with the needed K-9 equipment.

What remains up in the air is where the dog will come from. For the last six months Phipps said the department has been exploring all the options including vendor Pacific Coast K-9, located in Custer and described as an industry leader.