WICKLIFFE, Ohio — A K-9 unit can search an area 50 times faster than a human, and smell up to 500,000 times better, but between ongoing training and care, a police K-9 can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
The Wickliffe Police Department has been without a K-9 unit for nearly a decade since their last officer retired. The department has kicked off a fundraising effort to restart its program from scratch and is now asking the community for support.
Patrolman Nicholas Merrifield is leading the fundraising efforts and said a dog is a crucial member of the police force that can aid in a variety of ways.
“It’s basically an extra patrolman with four legs so policemen aren't able to smell things that a dog can, obviously, as well as track things that a dog can,” Merrifield said. “It gives us that extra element and gives us a tool that we could use on a daily basis in order to, like, do our jobs better.”
Wickliffe’s department consists of roughly 30 officers but hasn’t had a dog since K-9 Rex retired in 2012.
“There was a situation not that long ago where there were about four policemen running through backyards, getting all muddy and everything,” Merrifield said. “I knew that if we just had a K-9, this probably wouldn't have had to be this long of a chase is it had to be.”
Adding a K-9 to the mix would not only help the department but would also fulfill a personal goal for Merrifield he set when he was sworn in five years ago.
“I knew going into this, the only thing I wanted to be was a K-9 handler, so this was the number one goal when I got hired here in Wickliffe,” Merrifield said. “It was the number one thing when they asked, ‘where do they want to be in 5 years?’ And I said I wanted to be a canine handler. Here we are 5 years later and they're letting me do it.”
Merrifield just got the go-ahead from city council and the chief of police to begin looking for funding sources. Wickliffe estimates they will need about $70,000 to revitalize the program from scratch, and a large portion of that goes toward a specially designed cruiser for the dog.
“Right now, how we have to work is we call for another agency to come down if they have a canine available,” Merrifield said. “But there's been multiple times where there isn't one in the city or anywhere in a nearby city.”
Wickliffe Police Department is working with Sea of Blue Lake County, which is handling all donations because of their 501(c)(3) status. All donations will be tax-deductible.
You can read more about Wickliffe’s plans for their K-9 program on Facebook by clicking here.
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