Police department looks to revive K-9 unit

·3 min read

Jun. 23—OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa Police Department has been without a K-9 unit for six years. Now that Chad Farrington is chief of police, he wants to bring it back.

Farrington announced his hopes for resurrecting a key component to the police force during Tuesday's city council meeting, outlining how the unit would be structured and how it could be paid for.

The proposal appeared to have widespread support from the council.

"I'm very adamant that this will be a great tool for our community, and I really want to make it work," Farrington said Thursday. "[Not having a K-9 unit] has been felt real hard here. The Wapello County Sheriff's Office has one, and we have requested their assistance a lot."

Farrington said the plan is to have two dogs — one for the day shift and the other for the evening shift to give better coverage of the city — and that interest has been strong among his officers to be handlers of the dogs in the unit. He said an interview process will take place to determine who will run the unit.

"Those animals will be multipurpose-trained canine units, everything from tracking for search-and-rescue, drug detection and narcotics detection," he said.

The department hasn't had a K-9 unit since 2016, when the canine Shark died. Farrington was not aware of any other reasons for the dissolution of the unit, but he did say there wasn't a lot of fundraising that occurred to keep it going. He hopes that will be a critical part in funding the unit.

"A lot of this will be through grant writing, because I don't want to cost the taxpayers money," he said. "There are a lot of federal and state grants, and through kennel services. There are opportunities out there, and if they're awarded fiscally, then we could be sitting in the driver's seat.

"We're looking at some potential donations and events, because there will be recurring costs. We have some good partnerships who could be interested in assisting us with donations."

Most of the cost of the unit will be what Farrington called "required equipment," mainly specialized items for the dog such as vests and a cage unit.

"The dog itself and the training really aren't the issue," he said. "But not only do you have to outfit a patrol car, which is about $35,000 straight out of the wrapper and before you add the lights, computer, etc. You also have additional money, probably $8,000 or more, to benefit the dog."

When Farrington was first selected as chief, one of his first orders of business was to develop a committee to evaluate what a K-9 unit would look like. That committee was made up of police administration, first-line supervisors, police officers and civilian staff.

His next task will be to make presentations to private entities, such as JBS, the Ottumwa Community School District and Indian Hills Community College.

"We need to show them the value that the unit would have on them," he said. "I really think it's a great opportunity right now, and that it'll be a great asset for us."

— Chad Drury can be reached at cdrury@ottumwacourier.com, and on Twitter @ChadDrury