Snoqualmie police wants to implement narcotics K-9 program

Preliminary request is next step toward new program.

The Snoqualmie Police Department is pushing for a narcotic detection program, one utilizing a police K-9 handler and a single-purpose drug detection dog.

The topic was expected to be broached at the Snoqualmie City Council meeting on Tuesday, May 28 (the meeting was held after the Valley Record went to press). The agenda item, heard during the public safety committee portion, requests implementation of the new program. There is no budgetary impact currently. The request is for approval in continuing research on a narcotics K-9 program for the department. It’s anticipated that any funding will be obtained from outside sources.

As it stands, the department relies on outside law enforcement agencies when there’s a suspected narcotics situation in the area. Outside dogs — trained to locate cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin in buildings, cars and outdoors — are brought in as response to the time-sensitive issues.

Sometimes King County Sheriff’s Office and Washington State Patrol are too busy or far away to respond, Snoqualmie Police Chief Perry Phipps said. That plays into why the Snoqualmie Police Department is proposing the new program, he said.

Another reason is increased education.

“Our focus isn’t necessarily an enforcement part, it’s one aspect of it,” Phipps said. “Our focus is on education.”

He hopes to increase the awareness of what drug trafficking behavior looks like, he added, through community interactions at schools or citizens on the street.

One idea is that ever so often the police dog handler would visit an elementary school to read a book or to have lunch, according to the staff report. The school visits could lead to open discussions in families over what the dog’s job is.

“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,” the staff report says. “Ultimately, if we can prevent one person from starting a drug addiction, the program would have been worth it.”

This increased awareness may lead to increased reports and the department hopes a better unified response to drug abuse. Currently there is no unified response of the police department and Snoqualmie Valley.

“The truth of the matter is we do need to have the resources to effectively address this issue and not because we have a huge drug problem in town,” Phipps said. “We have drugs in this town — every community in the nation probably has these issues. We just want to make sure we don’t end up being one of those communities, and we’re taking a proactive approach.”

Phipps said the only way to know what issues exist in Snoqualmie is to have an effective way to deal with them.