The Franklin Town Board of Aldermen are considering adding a K-9 unit to the Franklin Police Department. The addition would allow the department to have its own drug sniffing dog.
In the proposed 2014-2015 fiscal year budget, $29,000 is set aside for supplies to the police department and within that, is $3,800 more set aside for the addition of a canine.
“You have some things to consider,” said Summer Woodard, acting town manager for the town. “You could scrap the idea all together; $3,800 isn't going to get you too far with a canine. However, if you feel that there is a need for a K-9 unit, my recommendation is that you look at a puppy that could be put through the proper training requirements. Just direct me how you would like to go there. We can eliminate it and put the money back in for tazers, radios, and whatever else may need to be purchased or we can pursue the K-9 unit.”
Currently, any time an officer needs to conduct a search of a suspect who may be hiding illegal drugs, the officer must call in one of four K-9 units from the Macon County Sheriff's Office which according to Alderman Farrell Jamison, can take a great deal of time out of the officer's shift.
“Our officers have a lot of idle time where they sit waiting for a K-9 Unit. Then you have to consider that when they stop someone and they have to wait, they are unavailable to pursue other calls because they have to wait on the county,” he told the other board members.
Alderman Joyce Handley agreed with the need, pointing to the ongoing problem in Franklin.
“I think that it's obvious that we have a drug problem here and in doing this we would be sending a strong message,” Handley said.
Aside from the initial costs of buying the dog, additional costs would be a cause for concern such as training costs, insurance, kennel construction, special food and vet bills as well as special training for an officer to handle the dog.
“If the board decides to take this route then I suggest that we go with Summer's proposal because the dog that's available now is four years old,” said Alderman Billy Mashburn. “We don't need to start there. It won't have that long left of service. But we have to consider, there's a lot of costs in this that is going to hit us. It'll eventually come out but it's going to be a while before we know what we're looking at. I'm a little pessimistic about this venture.”
Mayor Bob Scott mediated the conversation by reminding the board of limitations that can be encountered with the use of a drug dog, not all of it having to do with added costs to the town.
“The public also has a misperception about what the drug dogs can do, too,” said Scott. “There are a lot of fourth amendment issues that have come up in the last couple of years about the use of them, where you can use them and where you can't. I'm just not sure that there is a great benefit to a drug dog. Not when you've got others that you can call on. But it's whatever the pleasure of the board.”
“Well it's not a lot of money in this budget,” said Mashburn. “I think we should leave it where it's at for now. I do suggest looking at the option of a pup though.”
The Board of Aldermen will hold a meeting on June 2 at 7 p.m. to discuss and possibly adopt the budget for the upcoming fiscal year.