- January 25, 2023
With the retirement of K9 Dany in 2018, the borough of South Williamsport is working on adding a new K9 partner to the patrol division. The addition of a K9 partner will do many things for the boroughs of South Williamsport and Duboistown, including performing public relations between the police and the community, providing appearances
With the retirement of K9 Dany in 2018, the borough of South Williamsport is working on adding a new K9 partner to the patrol division. The addition of a K9 partner will do many things for the boroughs of South Williamsport and Duboistown, including performing public relations between the police and the community, providing appearances and demonstrations at various community functions, being a highly visible deterrent to criminal activity and tracking and apprehending criminals for arrest and prosecution. In addition, the new K9 unit will help to locate discarded drugs, firearms, and contraband, reduce the time needed to search buildings and locate illegal drugs and reduce the risk to uniformed officers on building searches where a barricaded individual may be hiding.
With the area’s growing drug problem, the South Williamsport Police Department took a step in helping to stop drug-related activity by forming the South Williamsport Interdiction Unit. The addition of a K9 partner is intended to further assist the Interdiction Unit and its officers in intercepting drug-related contraband being brought into the area.
When asked why it is important that the South Williamsport PD add a K9 unit, Officer Seth Stropp, who will be trained as handler, responded, “In March of 2020, the PA Supreme Court overturned a 2014 case, COMM V Gary, that case gave officers the ability to search a vehicle roadside under certain conditions. This ruling was then called the ‘motor vehicle exception.’ Under the motor vehicle exception, officers could search a vehicle due to its inherent mobility and the fact that dangerous narcotics and weapons could be lost and communities would suffer if these items were not found.” Officer Stropp went on to say that the odor or presence of narcotics or paraphernalia was necessary to execute the search. The new case, COMM V Alexander, now requires officers to only recover items in plain view or apply for a search warrant if probable cause exists to do so. This poses an issue for officers roadside as most illicit narcotics do not have an odor that officers can smell, and they can only now recover paraphernalia in plain view.
A K9 unit will assist the officers’ ability to locate narcotics that would otherwise go undetected. Without the K9 unit, officers would be unable to develop the needed probable cause the courts require to execute the search on these vehicles to remove the narcotics from the streets and out of the hands of the community.
In addition, Route 15 is a nationally traveled roadway and is classified by the DEA as a “drug corridor.” We see travel from major cities bringing gang violence to the area. An apprehension K9 would assist with getting these violent individuals off the streets as well as provide a valuable asset to his human partner on the street. We have a responsibility to be proactive and not reactive to these dangerous and deadly drugs. As drug trends evolve, so must the ways we combat them,” said Officer Stropp.
Though its benefit is clear, re-establishing a K9 unit is expensive. “We are looking at approximately $19,500, which includes the purchase of the K9 Basic Handler Kit, which includes 6’ and 15’ leashes, harness, flat collar, choke collar, and dog food while in the academy. This does not include the expense of the 6-week training course and housing and an additional $2,000 to outfit a police cruiser.”
Officer Stropp will be attending High Drive K9 in Greenville, South Carolina. Both the officer/handler and K9 officer go through intensive training, and High Drive K9 was chosen specifically because it was designed for smaller class sizes so that each team can receive the highest quality training. According to the company website, the course meets the standards and certifications set by the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy (SCCJA). Each K9 team will learn proper handling skills, ensuring that they are prepared to deploy as a K9 team across the country. The K9 team will be provided with the following necessary skills: the ability to control their dog, the ability to locate, alert, and apprehend a suspect, the ability to demonstrate proper search and deployment tactics, and the ability to overcome obstacles. At the conclusion of the course, each team will be evaluated and certified by two High Drive K9 Evaluators.
If anyone is interested in helping the South Williamsport Police Department re-establish its K9 unit, donations of any size can be dropped off at the South Williamsport Police Department or mailed to their office at 331 W. Southern Ave., South Williamsport. Checks should be made payable to the “Borough of South Williamsport” and reference “K9 Program”. All donated funds will go to the continuing care and training of the K9 patrol dog. In addition, the SWPD has partnered with the Texas Roadhouse and is having a fundraiser every Monday through January and February, where 10% of the total bill will be donated to the K9 program if the SWPD Facebook flyer is presented during the meal.