Council approves succession plan for police K-9 unit

Police chief wants 4-legged solution to combat increased property crime fueled by the local opioid epidemic
By Dan Aznoff | Oct 05, 2017
Courtesy of: City of Mill Creek Police Officer Ian Durkee and Rasko have been the K-9 unit used by the Mill Creek Police Department since the program began in 2012. The City Council approved a request from Police Chief Greg Elwin to implement a succession plan to replace Rasko when he retires in 2019. The chief wants the department’s next dog to assist his officers who deal with property crime and drug trafficking tied to the opioid epidemic.

Mill Creek Police Chief Greg Elwin hopes the addition of highly-trained dogs will help his department reduce the dramatic rise in property crimes by individuals who steal to fund for their addiction to illegal drugs.

The chief used his presentation to the City Council on Tuesday to outline his succession plan for the department’s K-9 unit.

Mill Creek’s one and only K-9 unit has consisted of Officer Ian Durkee and Rasko since it was launched seven years ago. A replacement dog is needed because Rasko is expected to reach the end of his service life in 2019.

Rasko does “a great job at tracking down bad guys,” according to Elwin. “But police work has evolved and so have the expectations of a police dog.”

Mill Creek’s next police dog should be like the city’s police officers, Elwin said. They should be both strong and social, so they can serve as ambassadors to children. The right dog should be as comfortable tracking a suspect on a park trail as he is with socializing with children at city events.

The chief would like the department’s next dog to be trained to identify illegal drugs as well as cuddle up in a classroom with elementary school children.

The dual-certified canine, Elwin said, could be used to combat the dramatic rise in car prowls and burglaries in Mill Creek perpetrated by drug users to fund their illegal habit. He said a dog trained to sniff out drugs could be called to traffic stops in the city to investigate vehicles for opioids or other contraband.

“We are not immune to what is occurring with drug issues in the county,” Elwin said. “While Mill Creek doesn’t experience some of the challenges of the bigger cities around us, we do have drug-related encounters nearly every day.

“If we can detect drugs, we can help people obtain recovery and other services while mitigating other crimes that are fueled by drug issues, such as burglaries and car prowls.”

The dog could also be used to patrol parking lots and apartment complexes where smash-and-grab incidents are most common as well as when officers visit transient camps.

“A well-trained police dog may not be able to identify who is using drugs,” Councilmember Mark Bond said. “But it can impact the number of people who come to Mill Creek to commit these crimes.”

Councilmember Donna Michelson was impressed that a dual-trained police dog would be on duty even in a social situation.

“The right dog is a good ambassador,” she said. “That’s what we need.”

The Mill Creek police department will be working with Code 4 Canine, a Washington-based law enforcement dog training company, to find and train the perfect puppy for the job.

City staff also might become involved with the new police dog. Councilmembers suggested that Joni Kirk, the director of Communications and Marketing, could post a blog about the new dog on the city’s website. Kirk enjoyed the proposal and suggested a citywide contest to name the dog.

In other business, the council updated its agreement with the law firm of Feldman & Lee to “provide effective legal representation for indigent persons.” The defense fund is mandated by state law. The firm has provided legal service for Mill Creek since 2012.

The city also pays a retainer to separate law firms to provide coverage in case Feldman & Lee is backlogged, and another firm to prosecute cases against the indigent population.

According to spokesperson Kirk, the indigent legal service providers were utilized 210 times in 2016 and have been engaged in 104 cases so far this year.

The council also voted to approve the Interlocal Traffic Control System that is designed to expedite traffic on the main thoroughfares through the city. The system is expected to be implemented in 2019.

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