Whitewater looks to add K-9 unit to police department

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Samantha Jacquest
Thursday, June 13, 2013

— The Whitewater Police Department is hoping to add a wet-nosed member to its team by the end of the year.

Organizers have been raising money for six months to add a K-9 unit to the department.

Capt. Brian Uhl said a dog would help with drug control and educate and connect with the community.

“We're going to take the dogs into the schools and try to educate our youth on the dangers of drugs,” Uhl said.

Uhl said the department would prefer a Labrador retriever because the breed is friendly.

“Unlike shepherds and Malinois that are used for protection and actually goes in and apprehends a suspect, our dog will just lead us to the right spot,” Uhl said.

They want the dog to be in the community and around children, Uhl said.

A committee was formed to raise money to buy a dog and supplies. None of the money is coming from the police department. The K-9 committee has been hosting fundraising events and selling T-shirts.

The committee has raised about $21,000 of the $45,000 needed. Uhl said a dog and training for an officer will cost about $10,000, and most of the rest of the money will be used to buy a vehicle equipped to transport the animal. Supplies and safety equipment for the dog will use the rest.

Jan Bilgen, president of the Whitewater Police and Fire Commission and a member of the K-9 committee, said she hopes the police department has a dog before the end of the year.

“I'm an avid dog lover and trainer, so I know what they can do,” Bilgen said. “For minimal investment of funds, there is so much good a K-9 unit can do.”

Another advantage to having a K-9 unit is the dog's ability to track people, Bilgen said.

“I have elderly parents, and a lot of people I love are older, and people wandering away or getting confused can happen,” Bilgen said. “A K-9 unit can help those people, whether it's a college student who has had too much to drink or an elderly person who just doesn't know where home is.”

Whitewater police have been relying on dogs from other law enforcement agencies, but Uhl said those dogs aren't always available. Even if they are available, it can take an hour or more for them to respond, Uhl said.

Bilgen said a dog will help fight drugs in the city, and people might not realize the extent of the drug problem in Whitewater.

In 2011, police made 66 arrests for illegal drug possession and 22 arrests for manufacturing or selling illegal drugs. In 2012, the numbers grew to 106 arrests for possession and 60 arrests for manufacturing or selling.

“I think there are a lot of people in Whitewater that think drugs aren't here because they feel so safe,” Bilgen said. “Drugs are here, it's just not in our face every day. I think if we want to make sure the problem does not become more prevalent, we need to step up the tools to fight it, and the K-9 unit will do that.”

Last updated: 7:53 am Monday, July 29, 2013

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