WAHOO – Within a span of just over two weeks, Saunders County saw two major drug seizures, proof that the Wahoo Police Department’s highly anticipated K9 unit is a necessity, according to law enforcement officials.
Wahoo Police Chief Bruce Ferrell noted the Oct. 4 traffic stop on Highway 92 just outside of Wahoo, where nearly 400 pounds of marijuana were discovered in a U-Haul truck that had been speeding on the Expressway through Wahoo. He also mentioned the Sept. 22 discovery of 10 pounds of methamphetamine after a motorcycle accident also on Highway 92, this time near Mead. Both incidents show a need for another K9 unit in the county.
The Saunders County Sheriff’s Department has a K9 unit. Ferrell said the WPD police dog and officer will work in conjunction with the county’s unit to provide services to Wahoo and other parts of the county if possible. The county’s K9 unit works primarily at night, while Ferrell anticipates the WPD dog and handler will take care of calls during the day.
“I’m really looking forward to this phase of our enforcement,” he said.
In September, the Wahoo City Council approved the purchase of the dog and training for the dog and officer, as well as a Ford F250 truck equipped for a police dog.
WPD Officer Stacia Nelson will be the dog handler. Ferrell awarded Nelson this position because she took the lead in working to obtain a police dog for the department. She approached the chief last year about adding a K9 unit, then did the research on K9 units and fundraising.
“She did a lot of front end work so you want to reward people that go the extra mile,” Ferrell said.
Nelson also has the proper temperament to be a dog handler, as well as the skills to be able to deal with incidents involving drugs and other situations where a K9 unit would be called.
The new police dog will be trained for narcotics detection and tracking. It will not be an “approach dog,” which means that it won’t be trained to bite suspects, Ferrell explained.
The department will take possession of the dog in December, when Nelson and the dog will also begin training. The dog will come from K9 Working Dogs International, an Ohio-based company that provides police and service dogs.
Once Nelson and the dog have completed training in Ohio, they will be sent to an agency in Nebraska for state certification, probably in January, Ferrell said.
Once they have been certified, Nelson and the dog will be ready to hit the streets in the specially-equipped truck purchased specifically for the K9 unit by the city through the state’s federal surplus property program.
“We made a very prudent, practical purchase of this vehicle through the Nebraska Federal Surplus program,” Ferrell said. “We already have more equity in it than the purchase price.”
Ferrell said they chose to buy a used vehicle to save money, but got a great deal in the process. The truck is already outfitted with all of the equipment needed, including an alarm system that will automatically roll down windows and turn on fans when the dog is inside the vehicle and it is getting too hot.
The type of dog that will be purchased has not yet been determined. Ferrell said the company will get an idea of Nelson’s personality and will try to match the dog to her.
Once the dog has joined the department, the name will be chosen in a special way. During the summer and fall, the WPD operated a booth at two downtown events. There they allowed the public to submit names for the new dog. The name will be chosen randomly and announced publicly in late December or early January.
Fundraising was a big part of the campaign to add a K9 unit to the WPD. Initially the department set a goal of raising $25,000 and have about $21,000 so far, Ferrell said.
The department recently received a $6,600 grant from the Ben Roethlisberger Foundation and they plan to apply for other grants as they anticipate needing additional funds to maintain the K9 unit. Ferrell estimates it could cost $2,000 to $4,000 annually for equipment maintenance, veterinary bills, recertification and dog food.
As the arrival of the dog draws near there is a big
push for funds, Ferrell said, as the National Chiefs of Police Association will match all donations made in the month of October up to $5,000.
All donations pass through the Greater Wahoo Development Foundation, which is a 501C3 so donors can receive tax deductions.
Suzi Nelson is the managing editor of the Wahoo Newspaper. Reach her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.