Snoqualmie Police Department to launch drug dog program in 2020

It looks like Phoebe the Snoqualmie Fire Dog may soon get a first responder canine friend.

In May the Snoqualmie City Council approved Police Chief Perry Phipps’s request to explore adding a K-9 drug program to increase the department’s level of the department.

Six months later – at its November 25th meeting – the council unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding between the city and Snoqualmie Police Association to move forward with the program.

According to a city news release, the new program will “increase awareness of illegal drug use and enhance community safety in the cities of Snoqualmie and North Bend.”

At the May council meeting, Chief Phipps said the K-9 program will lead to an increase in drug arrests as well as informing the community about the dangers of illegal drug use.

The program will be funded by donations to a recently-formed department nonprofit, with an estimated cost of $10,000 – $15,000 to purchase the dog and cover the specialized training of the canine and its handler.

Starting in early 2020, SPD will appoint an officer to serve as a dog handler. That appointed officer will continue to work patrol and take on the additional illegal drug enforcement activities. When not on duty, the dog will live at the officer’s residence.

SPD is currently searching for its new narcotics dog – which the city says could be any number of breeds – at organizations specializing in service dogs for patrol and narcotic detection.  The department previously stated it would search for an “approachable” dog breed like a Shepard, Pointer or Spaniel so as not to scare kids.

In May, a [potential] narcotics dog was described as a resource tool for the department and it would be used in a ‘Three-Prong” approach: Education, Detection and Suppression. Phipps said their main focus would be education, which starts with kids in the community.

Currently SPD calls in drug dogs from Washington State Patrol or King County Sheriff’s Office when they are needed, with no guaranty that they can arrive quickly. Chief Phipps previously explained if the K-9 cannot cannot arrive in time, a car suspected of containing drugs could go un-searched. He said the threshold for probable cause is stringent and unless the driver gives permission for a search, they often rely on drug detection dogs to get search warrants approved.

Snoqualmie and North Bend’s proximity to I-90 and SR 18 also increases the need for drug detection, with police saying these freeways are a major east-west route for drug transportation.

Read our earlier story about the Possible Snoqualmie Narcotics K-9 Program HERE.

Washington State Patrol Canines, Vilma and Sheila. Sheila retired in May after 7 years of service. PC: WSP

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