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Macomb Police to Restart K-9 Program

Emily Boyer / Tri States Public Radio
This was the previous K-9 unit. The vehicle was older and rotated out when the program lapsed. The department is purchasing a new vehicle for the program.

The Macomb Police Department has gone without a K-9 unit for more than a year following the early passing of the previous police dog. Police Chief Curt Barker told Tri States Public Radio it's time to restart the program.

Barker said without a K-9, routine traffic stops have become more challenging. If the police officer suspects drugs but the driver doesn’t give permission to search the vehicle, Barker said they have to call in the state police K-9 unit, which can take a while if they’re in a neighboring county.

“As you know the laws out there state that we can’t detain somebody for an extended period of time,” Barker said. “It has to be part of that traffic stop. So if you don’t have a dog readily available, you can’t wait a half hour for another dog to arrive.”

The Macomb Police Department has been raising money to purchase a new dog, which will costs between $8,000 and $10,000. Barker said Officer Nick Severs will work with the animal. The two are scheduled to attend police academy training in July.

Barker said they do not plan to teach the dog to alert to marijuana given the discussion happening at the state level about legalizing it.  

“We will train the dog on everything else. All the other drugs to alert on. Then maybe use cannabis later because we are going to hold off and see what happens with the new passing of recreational cannabis.” 

Barker said he wants to wait until legislation is passed and see how case law handles searching vehicles when recreational marijuana is legal. He said there’s just too much uncertainty right now.

“We’re kind of worried that if a person is doing everything legal and the dog hits on the vehicle for cannabis and the person had either a medical card or recreational and everything was packaged correctly like it’s supposed to be. What if we then find something else for a different crime in that vehicle? Is that part of the fruit of the poisonous tree where everything is going to get discarded because our means for searching that vehicle was cannabis which turned out to be legal but we found something else, that we wouldn’t have found without the search?”

Barker said the K-9 will also assist with school searches, tracking, and as a public relations tool for the police department.

The department will also buy a new Dodge Charger that will be outfitted to serve as the K-9 unit.  It will cost $23,000. Barker said the previous vehicle was older and was rotated out when the program lapsed. The money for the new car will come from the city’s drug asset forfeiture fund.

Emily Boyer is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.