WAHOO – Wahoo Police Department (WPD) was one of 10 other agencies across the country to receive a grant from The Ben Roethlisberger Foundation for a K-9 unit.
WPD has been fundraising for a K-9 unit since fall of 2020 with the initial goal of raising $25,000. The amount was determined after looking into the Bellevue Police Department’s K-9 unit program that spring, WPD Chief Bruce Ferrell said. After retiring from Omaha Police Department, Ferrell worked at BPD as civilian background investigator for six years so he is familiar with the success the K-9 program has had.
When the WPD determined a K-9 unit would be the right fit, Ferrell said they reached out to the Wahoo Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Wahoo Development Foundation (GWDF) for partners in the fundraising process.
The department now fundraises through GWDF to act as a 501C3 pass-through account where donations can be stored. With the $6,600 the department received from the Steelers QB, WPD has reached about $17,000 of its goal.
“The Wahoo Police Department would like to thank the Ben Roethlisberger Foundation for the generous donation to the Wahoo Police Department K-9 program,” Ferrell said in a press release. “Without their assistance our agency would be hard pressed to move forward with this project. I truly believe the K-9 program will enhance safety and promote positive community relations in our city.”
The Ben Roethlisberger Foundation distributed grants to 15 departments, including five departments from Pennsylvania specifically and 10 to departments across the country.
The $6,600 received will go toward equipment for the K-9 unit including an insert for the police vehicle that safely separates the dog from arrestees and regulates temperature. The department also requested a ballistic vest harness and other miscellaneous equipment.
Ferrell said there has been an increase in the goal because the police vehicle they intended to act as the K-9 unit vehicle has had quite a bit more mileage added to it this year than they planned.
“What I don’t want to do is invest a bunch of money into equipment for one vehicle and then a year later it disappears,” Ferrell said.
Ferrell has and will continue to apply for grants and fundraise because he said after they have established and trained the K-9 unit, it will continue to cost the department money. Ferrell estimates it could cost $2,000 to $4,000 annually for equipment maintenance, veterinary bills, recertification and dog food.
For those interested in donating, Ferrell said contributors can drop their donation at WPD or at the Wahoo Chamber of Commerce office, both in downtown Wahoo. If a check is being donated, Ferrell asked that it be made out to WPD and in the memo section “K-9 Fund.”
Ferrell said the goal is get the dog before the end of 2021 and start on the training process. The dog will be a single purpose dog trained for narcotics instead of also being trained in apprehension.
“We’re also able to utilize that animal as community policing as well,” he said. “For going to schools, going up to nursing homes, community events (and) things like that. It’s a good community relations piece as well.”