This request comes after having to ask neighboring departments to help supply their K9s in times of crisis.
Although Moorestown has a 20-year history of having K9s assisting the police department, the last dog it had retired in 2007. In hopes of helping the department function more efficiently, Chief Lee R. Lieber was present at the Moorestown Town Council meeting on Monday, Sept. 27 to request council support the acquisition of an additional K9.
This request comes after having to ask neighboring departments to help supply their K9s in times of crisis. In many instances, this alternative has left the Moorestown Police Department waiting more than a half an hour for a dog to appear at the scene — often too long when time is of the essence.
“Having the K9 ‘officers’ makes it safer for our officers to do their job along with making the town an overall safer place for our residents,” Lieber said. “While we are thankful to our neighboring departments for their ongoing K9 assistance, having our own team or teams would let us deploy more quickly, potentially tracking a missing child or special needs person or apprehending a criminal fleeing on foot.”
Within the Moorestown Township Police Department, there are a few officers interested in participating in the K9 program, which requires serious commitment. Although the acquisition of one K9 team would greatly benefit the community, Lieber said his ideal plan is to ultimately have two capable service dogs and handlers.
“Having two K9 teams working opposite shifts will give the town seamless coverage during the week, during times identified as being most likely needed for deployment,” Lieber said.
The K9 addition to the department would be planned to serve five or six years on the street, working as a multipurpose dog with duties including control, drug detection and searching for missing persons, ranging from children to the elderly to individuals with special needs.
“We actually had an incident about a year and a half ago,” Lieber said. “We had an elderly person with Alzheimer’s wander away out of the east end of town into the woods, and we were able to get a dog from a neighboring town. It took us a while, which is kind of a scary thing, but the dog was able to locate the person.”
While the department is still in its preliminary stages of looking into the acquisition of a dog and putting an officer through the proper training, it hopes to have a K9 team begin classes in 2017 to move the program forward. Lieber additionally explained that the department has already done homework and believes the acquisition would only be a small financial burden for the township.
“Back at the Unity Tour fundraiser a while back, I actually had the chance to speak with one of the officers who’s interested in having a dog, and he was so passionate about taking part in this program and we need someone who’s willing to do that and take on the big responsibility,” Deputy Mayor Victoria Napolitano said. “I would really like to see us go forward with it.”
All town council members were in favor of the chief’s request and planned to incorporate further K9 discussion into next year’s budget process.