Since starting his position at the Polk City Police Department last summer, Polk City Police Chief Trace Kendig has explored the possibility of bringing a K-9 Unit to the department. This K-9 Unit would focus on the training of one dog to begin with, and would have the option of choosing between what is considered a “sniff only dog” and a “dual purpose” dog.

A “sniff only dog,” for example, is primarily trained to conduct narcotic searches and open field searches for non-criminal missing persons. These dogs consist of breeds that are not as aggressive, as they are not trained to apprehend people.

A “dual purpose” dog, on the other hand, are dogs that not only have the ability of a “sniff only dog” but are also trained in handler protection, can be sent into a building to conduct a search and more.

As a result, an exploratory committee was first formed in order to research the effects that a K-9 Unit would cause, not only to the police department, but to the Polk City community as a whole. This committee consisted of a wide range of community members, including city representatives, a local businessman and the president of one of the local community organizations, to name a few.

“I didn’t want a committee of just like-minded people. I wanted people to be critical and analyze what works best for the community,” Chief Kendig said.

“We wanted to get everyone’s take, not only [on whether] people in the community would be interested in having a K-9 patrol unit, but also to see what support the program would have,” Polk City Councilman Rob Mordini added.

After thoroughly researching the topic, the City Council then heard from two of the exploratory committee members at the September council meeting.

Polk City Women president Allyssa Kohnert began the presentation with her findings on how a K-9 unit would be beneficial to the Polk City Community. She addressed issues such as the safety of children, the assistance of aiding elderly who have wandered away from the nursing home, the increased protection for officers, the reduction of drugs throughout the community and the tracking of criminals in buildings and on foot. Kohnert also pointed out that bringing in a K-9 Unit would act as a good bridge between the police department, the schools and the community.

“Personally, I support the purchase and the funding. I also tell you that I have had this topic on my agenda for the Polk City Women for several months now…And, they are very excited…and always asking what can we do to get this started,” Kohnert said.

The council members also heard from Polk City businessman Josh Maclean. Having seen the effects that a K-9 Unit had throughout his tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, Maclean brought with him first hand personal experience regarding the benefits a K-9 Unit can have on a community.

“Just the presence that a dog brings when somebody sees that truck that says K-9 on the back of it, it instantly sticks out to you that there’s a dog in that community and (just like chief said) the force multiplier that a dog is and the enhanced senses that we as humans don’t capably have that a dog can bring,” Maclean said, “As far as my personal experience, I bring more of a military side to it and the benefits it brought to my tours in Iraq and Afghanistan…just the benefits the dog brings, knowing when you’re walking down a community, the threats weren’t nearly there as often. If it can have that kind of effect on the threat of what they would face over there in a war-torn country, imagine the effect it would have with any kind of threats we would face here in Polk City.”

Maclean also addressed the positive effects that a K-9 Unit could have bringing a community together.

“Dogs are also a very positive effect to a community,” Maclean said, “When you bring a dog out, people want to be with the dog. They want to be around the dog. It’s a very positive impact they have. I think with the enhanced capabilities a dog has and the positive effect of the community, I think it will be a very beneficial asset to have on the police force.”

In the end, the City Council voted to support an ongoing Polk City K-9 Program.

“I am very happy that the council supported us, especially unanimously. I believe the route of using a committee was the right way to go,” Chief Kendig said.

“I’m excited about it. And, I think it takes our department to the next level,” Mordini said, “I’d like people to realize that the K-9 Units are multi-faceted (the ability to find lost children [and] the ability to keep our officers safe, etc). They fill a void that the average officer can’t fill, just based on the ability of an animal.”

Coming up, the police department will present approximately two-three possible vendors to choose from when purchasing the dog. From there, a contract will be put together once a dog is available for purchase. However, this could take anywhere from one-two years, depending on the availability of a dog to train.

“I would take quality over rushing to get a dog. So, we might have to wait a year or so to have a dog available to train,” Chief Kendig said.

In addition, the police department is currently working to set up a nonprofit police association as a means to raise the initial funds needed for the program. Then, starting the summer of next year, the Polk City council will also work to maintain what is needed for support and upkeep of the program.

“I would like to thank the city leaders and K-9 Committee. Everyone put a lot of time into making this a successful beginning for us,” Chief Kendig said.