Published September 27. 2012 4:00AM
Montville - The town has made revisions to a policy that could pave the way for the police department to acquire its first police dog.
Sgt. Martin Martinez, the town's resident state trooper who reworked the policy, on Monday made his pitch to the Public Safety Commission, which approved the policy and sent it on to the Town Council for review.
Martinez said the department hopes to obtain a Labrador retriever that would be trained as a food reward dog. For instance, when it assists in helping to sniff out narcotics or track a suspect, it would receive a treat or food.
Town police have long believed a police dog would be an asset to the 23-person department. Previous discussions centered on the prospect of the department starting its own K-9 unit with multiple dogs, but for now it has interest only in one dog.
"It's baby steps, as far as I'm concerned," Martinez told the Public Safety Commission. "Right now, I would like to get one dog. In the future, if we decide to go with more dogs, that's up to the mayor."
Martinez said his department has seized about $5,000 and a car in recent criminal cases and that money could be put toward the police dog and its care. The department would need to make some adjustments to a police cruiser for the dog to ride in, and there would be annual veterinary and food costs.
The dog would be purchased by the state at a cost of $2,300 to the town, Martinez said. Training for the dog and the police officer chosen as its handler is 11 weeks and is provided by the state for free. The dog is trained alone for the first six weeks and then with its handler for the remainder of the training.
Martinez said there will be an interview process for officers who wish to become the dog handler. Interested officers who live within 10 miles of the center of town will have an advantage in the process, according to the policy. The chosen officer will also be required to have the dog live in his or her home.
The policy also outlines instances in which it is acceptable for the dog to bite a suspect. The policy states there must be probable cause to believe a person has committed a felony or is a danger to officers or other persons in the area.
Police Officer Robin Salvatore, who is president of the police union, said she is a big supporter of the department getting a police dog.
"This is K-9 policy that was tabled a long, long time ago," Salvatore said. "We have needed a dog in this town for years."