Middlebury Police Looking for Funding to Support New K9 Unit

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With Town Meeting Day less than a month away, Middlebury Police are looking for your support in funding a new K9 Unit.

Middlebury Police Chief Tom Hanley says a trial program was privately funded from 2006 to 2009.

“At the end of that program, the officer left and went to Vergennes where he became the chief there, and at that time without any of the materials or without a K9, or a trained K9 handler, the program just kind of went on hiatus,” said Hanley.

George Merkel is now Chief of Police in Vergennes.

He says after he became chief in 2009, the K9 program was in full force within three weeks.

Chief Hanley says people in Middlebury have shown interest in bringing it back.

He says the use of a K9 for narcotics detection is invaluable, for a number of reasons.

“We had a lot of people coming in the area from out of the state that were involved in some narcotic dealings and stuff like that, and having the presence of the dog, and the cooperation of the housing managers to calm these housing projects down was probably the biggest success we had with the dog,” said Hanley.

“A K9 can sometimes be that link between you, or a kid, or a person that breaks down that wall, that barrier that may initially exist between two people when you try to talk to them, or to win people’s confidence,” said Merkel.

Chief Hanley says the start up cost in the program’s first year is a little more than $30,000.

“That involves re-conditioning a police car, setting that up for the specific use of the dog, and then getting the acquisition of the dog, the extra pay for the K9 handler, amongst other things,” said Hanley.

Now that he’s seen the benefits of a K9 program in two departments, Merkel says the cost of the program is worth it.

“In the current situation that the state’s in with narcotics, the K9 is a tremendous tool. They can make things pretty miserable for drug traffickers, which is what we like to do,” said Merkel.

Chief Hanley is confident the vote could pass.

Midlebury’s Public Safety Commitee endorsed the program, and the Select Board agreed to put the item as a warning on Town Meeting Day.

It will be up for a vote the following day.

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