Porter County Sheriff's Department


Police K-9 Units growing in use in region

Portage K-9 Officer Kyle Lerch, on left, calls police dog Bomber off of Officer Rich Schmitt during a demonstration before patrol at the Portage police station

Police K-9 units growing in use in region


November 06, 2013

Joyce Russell nwi.com


Sgt. Larry LaFlower remembers a particular traffic stop when he worked with Porter County Sheriff's Department canine unit.

A car had been stopped on the Indiana Toll Road for having heavily tinted windows. LaFlower was at the scene with his canine, Aslan.

The dog went to work, sniffing the vehicle. Not only did he detect drugs in the trunk, but found more than $32,000 in a spare tire.

LaFlower, now public information officer for the Sheriff's Department, can remember Aslan "going crazy and alerting."

It's just an example, he said, of what a police K-9 can do and a human officer cannot.

The use of police canine units is growing. There are about 50 dogs being used by police departments throughout the region.

They are being viewed as a more acceptable, a more desired tool in law enforcement.

"You go to the dogs to get the job done quicker," said Mike Johnson, president of the American Police Canine Association, referring to canines used in searches, whether it is for drugs or other contraband or for missing people.

Johnson estimated there are more than 1,000 canines in use in various aspects of law enforcement throughout the state, from local police department to state penitentiaries.

While their use and popularity are growing, funding for the units is not. The vast majority of the financial support of canine units throughout the region comes from donations and grants.

Dogs alone can cost upward of $10,000. That doesn't include the cost of equipment, food or veterinarian care.

Griffith got its first canine unit this year.

"We needed him," said his handler, Patrolman Robert Gutierrez, who not only led the effort to add a K-9 unit to the department, but also led the effort to raise about $60,000 to purchase Gino and related equipment. A school raised an additional $1,200 to purchase Gino a ballistic vest.

Gutierrez said his department often borrowed dogs from other departments, but he saw the need to have one available at all times.

"I saw how we called different agencies and they weren't available. I knew if we had a canine available, I saw so many opportunities," he said.

Portage obtained four dogs this year, adding the fourth just this week.

That, said Chief Troy Williams, will allow one K-9 team for each patrol shift.

Funds for the Portage dogs came through donations and grants. While the city has picked up some of the tab for equipment and handler costs, veterinary care is donated, and K-9 officers have held three fundraisers to help support the unit, Williams said.

Gary also recently doubled the size of its K-9 unit, moving from two to four dogs, Cmdr. Sean Jones said.

"We had a K-9 unit years ago and then it was disbanded. A couple of years ago we had donations from the Gary K-9 Association for dogs and training," Jones said. Two were added then. Two more were welcomed to the city in September, also from donations through the Gary K-9 Association.

"They are a very important, very vital tool when it comes to searches," said Jones, adding it is much safer to send a canine into a vacant building than a human officer. He said they are also vital for use in drug searches.

Lansing K-9 supervisor Sgt. Tim Glinski said his department has one K-9 unit, down from a high as four. The one unit, he said, is rotated on different shifts and called out when needed.

"Our hope is that we would always have the one. It would be nice to go back to how we use to have them," said Glinski, adding it comes down to funding. Presently the unit is funded through asset forfeiture money.

Chesterton has had two dogs for nearly three years, said Chief David Cincoski, funded through donations and a grant.

Cincoski said they raise money from having dunk tanks at local festivals to benefit golf outings.

"We use very little to no taxpayers money to fund the program," he said.

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