For the first time in more than 40 years, The Scotts Valley Police Department will have its very own K-9 unit.
Approved by the Scotts Valley City Council in June, the K-9 project officially got underway on Monday when Det. Brandon Polito selected Atlas, a 13-month-old German Shepherd and Malinois mix, to join the SVPD.
This new teammate will allow officers to perform their jobs more efficiently and solves the problem of having to borrow another dog from other departments when in need, said SVPD Chief John Weiss.
“Part of the challenge with a police dog is that you have to have someone who is willing to be a canine operator,” Weiss said. “It’s a real commitment to live with the dog and to go through the training.”
Polito, who originally suggested the idea of a K-9 unit and did the research necessary to write the proposal, will be partnered with Atlas for training and patrols.
Polito said that he and Atlas will begin training in August and will be ready for deployment in mid-October.
Atlas, hand-selected from a group of dogs that were bred and raised in Israel, will be a dual-purpose dog specializing in narcotic searches and patrol, Polito said.
“I worked in investigations and saw we had many cases where we could have used one [a police dog] and I decided to start looking into it,” he said. “With the economy starting to rebound it seemed like an appropriate time to propose it to the city council.”
Scotts Valley Mayor Jim Reed said the entirety of the city council is supporting this new K-9 unit, which he said adds another positive aspect to the city’s concept of community policing and safety.
“Brandon is a fantastic officer, we are very fortunate to have him,” Reed said. “He and Atlas are going to make a great team.”
A K-9 unit makes it easier for officers to quickly search homes and buildings as well as conduct open-area searches for missing persons and fleeing suspects, Weiss said.
“It takes far less time to find a suspect in a large warehouse or building when you have a dog doing the search versus officers having to go room-by-room,” he said.
It is also effective in terms of tracking, crime scene evidence searches, and finding narcotics hidden in secret compartments or other locations.
Weiss said that having Atlas will help to improve public relations by participating in local presentations and demonstrations, such as those at the Junior Police Academy.
“It is a way for us to do our job better and we have found a way to do it without costing the city much money,” Weiss said.
The initial cost of equipment and outfitting a vehicle for the dog will cost around $24,000.
From there, Weiss said, the dog will require approximately $5,000 per year for food, training, and additional maintenance.
These expenses will be covered by an annual law enforcement-specific state grant, as well as via contributions from the community. Donations for the program are currently being accepted by SVPD.
“It's been really wonderful to see the outpouring of support from businesses and our community that want to help support a dog program because they see the value of it,” Weiss said.