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  • Last modified 32 days ago (Sept. 18, 2019)

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A doggone shame

Much as we admire the work of Marion police under the capable leadership of new chief Clinton Jeffrey, we have to question the decision to start a fund drive to purchase a drug-sniffing police dog.

If having such a dog is a necessary part of modern policing, it ought to be purchased with taxpayer money. We don’t have fund drives to buy guns, radios, and squad cars for police. Why put a police dog in a “luxury” category if it, in fact, is needed?

It’s not as if every city service that taxpayers support is absolutely essential. Public safety would seem to have a stronger claim on taxpayer money than would the things being paid for by ever-increasing amounts spent on running recreation programs.

Is making sure someone is tending a concession stand or working as an umpire at the ballpark really a more vital service, deserving of taxpayer support, than sniffing out whether stopped motorists might be transporting drugs into our community?

We admire the fiscal restraint of trying to raise money via donations, but we question the result of such practices in the past.

Marion used to have a police dog, but the officer who used the dog considered it to be his personal property and took it with him when he left the force. The county also has a police dog, but it is unavailable for a few months because its sole handler is off serving in the military.

Surely one police dog could service all the needs of all the communities in the county, and surely we could train more than one individual to handle that dog. In the meantime, neighboring counties are willing to share their dogs when possible. But even much larger counties don’t have multiple police dogs the way Marion and Marion County would under this proposal.

It’s not as if taxpayers wouldn’t be paying for the dog even if donations were raised to buy it. Specialized squad cars need to be purchased, and the animal’s care and feeding would need to be tended to. It’s just that ownership of any donated dog would always be somewhat uncertain. Like Marion’s last police dog, it could be regarded as outside government control when an officer leaves or has a conflict.

We don’t fault police for wanting a dog — though we do sometimes question how dogs are used, particularly when the primary use appears not to be checking vehicles coming into town but merely to be checking vehicles passing through the outskirts of town.

Drug busts can result in police seizure of vehicles and cash discovered, making drug dogs not just protectors but also creators of revenue that largely is beyond the control of elected officials.

We urge city council members to rethink their apparent reluctance to pay for a police dog and to consider instead entering into a cooperative agreement with the county and other cities to share a police dog, purchased at taxpayer expense and trained to work with more than just one officer.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified Sept. 18, 2019

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