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 Knightstown Police Get New Drug Dog

September 24, 2008 - In the past, Knightstown Chief of Police had joked that officer Derek Hall was the Knightstown Police Department’s “drug dog.”

Now, thanks to a gift from the Anderson Police Department, Hall will be able to cede this unofficial “title” to a four-legged officer that’s the real thing.

The Knightstown Town Council voted unanimously at its Sept. 18 meeting to accept a nearly five-year old black Labrador named “Buddy” donated by the Anderson Police Department. Anderson Chief of Police Darron Sparks told the council that Buddy is trained to detect the presence of marijuana, cocaine (in both powder and crack forms), heroin and methamphetamine.

“The most important purpose and reason to have a drug dog is to get drugs off the street,” Sparks said. He also said the dog will provide good public relations for the KPD and the town, and help the department reach out to youth in the community.

Sparks said the donation of Buddy is being made in memory of Cassie Taylor, an 18-year-old Knightstown woman who died of a heroin overdose last year. Sparks, who had worked for the KPD 22 years ago and still keeps in touch with some members of the community, said Taylor’s death had “weighed heavy on (his) heart.”

In addition to the dog, Sparks said his department will also provide training for the KPD’s Hall, who will be Buddy’s handler, and donate a harness for the dog. All together, he estimated the package to be worth $8,000-$9,000.

Baker told the council that the KPD has also secured donations of five years worth of food for Buddy, and Hall said a cage to transport the dog has been donated as well. Council President Valerie Trump said insurance on the dog is expected to run about $1,800 for five years.

Buddy’s current handler, an officer with the APD, gave a brief demonstration of the dog’s ability to locate drugs. He explained that when Buddy detects drugs, he sits to indicate their presence, and then is rewarded when the officer gives him a ball.

Council member Terry Guerin, one of two members of the council’s police committee, complimented Baker and Hall on finding a way to obtain the dog at minimal cost to the town. Trump also said she thought Hall had done a good job.

Scott Ritchie, principal at Knightstown High School, told the council he thought the addition of the drug dog would also benefit KHS by helping deter drug use by students. Dan Webber, president of the Knightstown Neighborhood Crime Watch, also said his group supported acquisition of the dog and planned to find ways to help the KPD support Buddy.

In other KPD-related matters, the council also voted unanimously with respect to citizen complaints that had been filed against two of the department’s officers regarding separate incidents. Guerin said the police committee had found merit to the complaints and the council approved recommendations to have Baker deal with one of the issues, and for a written warning to be placed in the personnel file of the other officer for violating department policy.

Asked at last week’s meeting to provide information about the complaints, the council, acting on the advice of their attorney, declined to identify the officers involved or the describe the nature of the complaints. However, in response to a public record request filed by The Banner, the town released unredacted copies of the complaints on Monday.

One of the complaints was from a citizen who felt that she had been treated rudely by Baker when she had contacted the KPD about a matter. The second officer who had complaints filed against him was Dan Denny, who was the subject of three complaints over his handling of two separate traffic-related incidents.

The council approved the purchase of a 120-foot used radio antenna tower for $3,700. The plan will be to use the tower for antennas for the dispatch system serving the town’s police and fire departments, as well as Southwest Ambulance Service and the town of police, fire and ambulance services in that part of the town of Shirley located in Henry County.


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