Fundraising for potential Prescott K-9 gets thumbs up from city
A potential Prescott Police Department K-9 has a murky timeline, with fundraising efforts underway, but no definitive plans yet.
The current estimated costs for getting the dog are about $60,000, and at a Nov. 12 Prescott City Council meeting, city officials gave the fundraising their support. City and police officials say the dog could be useful for both crime deterrence and as a public relations tool, but with a new chief on the way and no implementation plan, the dog has no immediate future in the department.
"This is just working towards adding a new tool to the police department," said Doug Ducklow, Prescott's office chief.
Fundraising efforts are being led by local residents, through the Prescott K-9 Project, through the Prescott Foundation, a local fundraising organization. The plan is to solely fundraise the dog's costs.
The police department is currently pushing this forward as a "working theory," Ducklow said. The dog would have dual roles as both a patrol and narcotics dog.
The only dog in the county is out of the Pierce County Sheriff's Office — Prescott would be the only municipality with one in the area.
"We're struggling in Pierce County all over with the drug part of it," Ducklow said.
With city budgets all but approved for 2019, leaving no city funds to devote towards the effort, Ducklow said acquiring a K-9 dog could take beyond the next year, depending on how fundraising develops, and that "the department has no budgetary input [on the dog.]"
"It's a building block, it isn't something that immediately happens," Ducklow said. "We haven't been given any clear direction that the police department should implement this."
At the November council meeting, Lisa Johnson and Stacy Freiheit — who are helping organize fundraising efforts — said they have raised about $6,900 so far, according to city meeting minutes. They said the plan is for none of the funding to come from city levy money.
However, Prescott Mayor David Hovel wouldn't rule out potential city contributions, if the public's interest was high enough and donations were there, but came up short.
"I think [the council] might, I don't think they would want to put $50,000 ... but never say never," he said. "If there is strong enough support then we could consider it."
Efforts to fund a police dog have been going on since former police chief Gary Krutke died in 2017, when his family requested donations to fund a department dog.
Then, Prescott police Sgt. Jesse Neely worked as the liaison between the Krtuke family and the department.
"The family didn't want flowers ... I was quite shocked," Neely said.
At the meeting, Neely signaled he could potentially be the dog's handler, if it was funded. He has never been a handler, but has previous experience working alongside K-9 units, he said.
However, Ducklow works as a chief on a contract basis, which ends in January, and a new chief could go a different direction, Neely said.
The city's police commission has been reviewing potential candidates' applications, with the idea to hire someone by December. The new chief would work with Ducklow for a month to help ease the transition.
"The new chief, he could say 'no' to the whole thing," he said.