Cecil County Sheriff Dept. Goes to Dogs: K9 Officers to Join Force, Patrol Schools
Cecil County‚Äôs Sheriff‚Äôs Department is bringing on two new four-pawed recruits this spring, training K9 dogs to detect illegal drugs in schools and also serve broader law enforcement duties in the county‚ÄĒat no expense to taxpayers.
In an interview with Cecil Times, Sheriff Barry Janney said that he has been working for months on a plan to use money seized from convicted drug dealers to expand his agency‚Äôs tools to combat drugs. Discussions have been going on since last summer, especially after Gov. Martin O‚ÄôMalley met with county officials to address the serious problem of drug overdose deaths in Cecil County, he said.
After discussions with County Executive Tari Moore, Janney said he went ahead and retained a consultant to explore the costs, training needs and capabilities of adding canines to the force. A plan was developed to purchase two specially-bred police dogs, recruit two current deputies to be their partners, and put them through an expected six-month training period before the unit will be operational probably by late this summer.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs very costly,‚ÄĚ Janney said of the process. But he said the program will use $25,000 in money seized from drug dealers to acquire the dogs and pay for training, as well as retro-fitting two existing police cruisers with cages to house the K9 officers for their patrols. (Seized drug dealer assets can only be used for equipment and training, not salaries of personnel.)
An internal advisory, recruiting current deputies to apply for the two K9 unit positions, went out in the past few weeks. An advisory panel will review applications and select the deputies who will partner with the dogs. As with K9 units at other police agencies, deputies selected for the program will be the primary caretakers of the dogs who will live with their families when not on duty. ‚ÄúA dog is only as good as his human partner,‚ÄĚ Janney observed.
Janney said the dogs will be ‚Äúcross-trained‚ÄĚ in both drug detection and general police duties, such as crowd control. ‚ÄúIt costs more to do that,‚ÄĚ he said, but such training gives his department greater flexibility in using the K9 officers to meet law enforcement needs as they arise.
The Sheriff said that his first priority for using the K9 teams will be to patrol county public schools, where their drug-detection skills will combat illegal drug usage by students as well as serve as a deterrent to bringing drugs on campus in the future. In addition, the K9 teams will regularly patrol the county‚Äôs Detention Center.
The dogs‚Äô skills will also serve the county‚Äôs law enforcers in other anti-drug efforts.
Janney explained that in recent years it has become more difficult and time-consuming to rely on other police agencies with trained drug-detection dogs if traffic stops indicate possible drug presence in vehicles.
Janney, who is retiring at the end of the year as Sheriff, had faced criticism in past election campaigns from a former K9 officer, Chris Sutton, who disputed why the department had dropped past canine operations. Sutton, who is running for sheriff for the third time in 2014, was defeated by Janney in the past two elections.
Janney explained that he had to dedicate all available budget resources to road patrols and criminal investigations and it is only now, that the county has finally added to the deputy force, that other funds can be allocated and officers re-deployed.
For five years, Janney‚Äôs budget requests sought to add deputies to the force but the then- County Commissioners refused‚ÄĒeven denying a budget request in 2012 to add two deputies specifically assigned to complex prescription drug investigations and the drug task force.
But last year, under the new Charter government, Moore approved Janney‚Äôs request to add five new deputies in the current budget. Those deputies were designated for road patrols, due to rising volumes of calls from the public for response. The County Council cut $125,000 at the last minute from the overall Sheriff‚Äôs budget, with the result that the Sheriff had to stagger start dates for some of the new deputies.
Only now, with the first increase in deputy staffing in five years, has his agency felt it could go ahead with the K9 program, Janney said. And the recent designation of the County as part of a federally-aided ‚Äúhigh impact drug trafficking area‚ÄĚ will enhance the prospects of future fiscal support for the program.
Moore recently told Cecil Times she strongly supported the addition of K9 units to the county‚Äôs law enforcement efforts and said she felt it would go a long way toward helping address the county‚Äôs drug ‚Äúcrisis.‚ÄĚ