Altoona PD looks to restart K9 program after officer resigns

Published: Jan. 30, 2020 at 9:45 PM CST
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Around a month ago the handler for the Altoona Police Department's K9, Max, resigned from the department.

"We contemplated what we wanted to do with the K9 program because of course it was our right to be able to continue with the dog, but we thought it was in the dog's best interest to stay with the family and with the K9 officer," said Altoona City Administrator Mike Golat.

Max's departure has left Altoona without an apprehension and narcotics dog.

But Chief Kelly Bakken says the department wants to restart the program.

This time with a narcotics only K9, as opposed to a dual purpose dog.

"Just the number of cases that we have really don't justify the need for a dual purpose K9. When I look at how much money it costs for a dual purpose K9, how much training we invest into that, and the maintenance training that's invested into that is a lot," explained Bakken.

She says there wasn't a thought of not continuing on with the program, in part because of the community support it has received in the past and the advantage having a K9 provides.

"K9's, you know, they have a better sense of smell, they're able to more easily locate narcotics than what law enforcement officers themselves are able to do. So it really cuts down on the amount of time that we have to spend on traffic stops or building searches," said Bakken.

The next step for the city is to work with the police union on reviewing their contract regarding K9 operations.

The cost to purchase a new K9 police dog is estimated at $12,000-15,000, according to the National Police Dog Foundation.

"We anticipate that those efforts will be ongoing to raise funds for that program but also the city is prepared to commit to the training and purchase of the new dog," said Golat.

Bakken says the next K9 handler will be an officer who is already with the department.

Between the purchase of a dog, and the training of both the dog and officer, city officials say it will probably be around six months before the unit is back up and running.

While the department is currently without a K9 unit, Bakken says that will not change much within the department.

She adds that if there is a call that they need a K9 for, they have been able to call on the Eau Claire Police Department or Lake Hallie Police Department to use their K9's for help.

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