The Susanville Police Department is continuing to make progress towards adding a K-9 unit to the police force; however, there are several administrative steps that need to be taken before the purchase of a dog can be made.
“The city and Police Officers Association have to agree within the bargaining group how they are going to address a K-9 position,” John King, chief of police stated.
King also shared that a working policy has been developed, outlining how the dog is to be used by the department, how the handler will be deployed and what training is necessary, and needs to be reviewed by the city council and POA. Ownership of the dog also needs to be determined.
“Once everyone is comfortable with the bargaining units and the policy and everything is good, we will identify a handler and will start looking for a program to get into and buy a dog.”
Although there is no timeline for when a dog will be part of the police department, King reported that there are funds set aside for the purchase of a dog and that other fundraising efforts have been put on hold until all the logistics have been worked out.
This will not be the first K-9 unit to be part of the police force. According to an article in the Sept. 29,1992 issue of the Lassen County Times, Zeus became the first K-9 officer to be used by the Susanville Police Department.
After 18 weeks of training, Zeus became a “cross-trained canine” capable of subduing suspects, locating drugs and tracking people.
Retired chief of police Jim Wages shared that Zeus was great for public relations, too.
“Everyone responded well to the dog, and he was well-trained and very docile around them and allowed them to pet him,” he said.
The Lassen County Sheriff’s Office has had a K-9 unit since Dec. 2013. K-9 Brinks currently patrols with deputy Russell.
When asked about the advantages and challenges of a K-9 unit, Russell stated the primary advantage is the safety of the deputy. “It’s like having a partner.”
Another advantage with a K-9 unit, according to Russell, is the ability to locate people or narcotics.
“The biggest benefit is people give up with less use of force,” he said.
Challenges for the sheriff’s office include liability if the dog bites as a use of force, funding and the many hours of initial and monthly training that are required.
Because the K-9 unit has been so successful, the sheriff’s office has started to process to obtain a second one.