Looking to step up the war on drugs, Cobleskill Police are adding a canine unit.
A dog to sniff out drugs, Chief Rich Bialkowski said, will be a key element to combat the growing problems of heroin and prescription drugs.
The Village of Cobleskill still must approve the canine unit--Mayor Linda Holmes said that's just a formality--and police must buy the dog and set up officer training.
Chief Bialkowski is aiming to have the unit in place by spring.
Cobleskill Police already have efforts in place for prevention--drop-off boxes for prescription drugs and syringes--and for treatment, with the department's Angel Program.
"This is for enforcement," Chief Bialkowski said of the canine unit.
"With heroin and prescription drugs, we have a pretty big addiction problem right now."
He envisions using the dog when executing search warrants and other investigations. Also, when an officer suspects something during a traffic stop, he can call in the canine unit.
Chief Bialkowski said he'll use the dog on checks in Cobleskill-Richmondville's Golding School. Although the high school is out of the PD's jurisdiction, officers will bring in the dog there when asked.
"I wouldn't say drugs are a significant problem at the middle school [Golding}, but this will help," Chief Bialkowski said.
Officers currently use another agency's drug dog on one sweep a year at the high school and Golding.
"We do both the same day, and everyone knows it's coming," Chief Bialkowski said. "This would be more random."
The dog would also be involved in education and demonstrations in schools, at the Sunshine Fair and other gatherings as a way to gain support and improve relations.
SUNY Cobleskill's law enforcement already has a bomb-detecting dog. Chief Bialkowski said the two departments can share dogs depending on need.
"Having those two resources will be helpful," he said.
The cost to the village will be minimal.
The department is receiving a $5,000 grant from the National Association of Chiefs of Police, and through donations, Cobleskill Police have raised the matching $5,000.
A Massachusetts police department is donating a cage to be inserted in Cobleskill's Chevrolet Tahoe to carry the dog.
The Hill Pet Food is donating vouchers for food, and Chief Bialkowski is lining up free veterinary care.
Chief Bialkowski said the department is looking to buy a Belgian Malinois, which resembles a German Shepherd.
The dog will come fully trained, he said, but then an officer will need training to the handle the dog.
There will be a screening process to select the officer, who'll also house the dog at his home.
Setting up the details and training the officer will take time, Chief Bialkowski added. That's why he's aiming for a spring start-up.
Although funds are in place for the dog and much has been donated, the police department is still seeking contributions for ongoing equipment and special needs.
One of those may be a bullet-proof vest for the dog, which many departments have, Chief Bialkowski said.
Anyone wishing to donate can send a check to Cobleskill Police Department, 378 Mineral Springs Road, Cobleskill.
Or a donor can call Chief Bialkowski at 234-2923.