The Block Island Times

Police dog proposed

By Stephanie Turaj | Jan 10, 2014
Courtesy of: Courtesy photo The police department is looking at a possible new "hire" — a police dog similar to the one pictured here.

The New Shoreham Police Department is looking to add a furry new member to its force for this summer season.

Police Chief Vincent Carlone came before the Town Council on Wednesday, Jan. 8, to make the proposal for a canine unit on Block Island.

“On a search for a missing child, a canine can be worth 80 people,” said Carlone. “Just for that reason alone it’s worth it, but it will also be useful for late night searches and late night alarms. I’ve always worked with a canine at previous jobs.”

Carlone said that private funds are being raised to purchase the dog and care for it for the first three years of its service. Carlone said there are fundraising plans to raise the money for the rest of the dog’s service, which usually totals around seven years.

A police dog would be assigned to work with one officer only, referred to as the dog’s handler. Officer Joe DeMatteo has volunteered to take this role on, and has been attending off-island training sessions to familiarize himself with the responsibility.

The dog would work and live with DeMatteo. DeMatteo will have to train for six weeks this spring with the canine. For the remainder of the dog’s service, there will be about 12 to 20 off island training days per year, said Carlone.

“I’m very excited for this,” said DeMatteo. “I’ve wanted to do this for a long time.”

Island resident Molly Fitzpatrick asked if the dog would be a “sniffer or attack dog.” DeMatteo responded that “attack” is not the proper word, but the dog’s role would be to protect the handler while on patrol. It would also be able to sniff for drugs (marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine) and for missing people.

In a letter to the Town Council, Carlone wrote, “The K9 can be used for Search and Rescue, which we have several missing children every summer, narcotics interdiction, patrol operations and building searches, and in many other ways that will help our force. The K9 is definitely a force multiplier, and is especially helpful in the dark when checking alarm calls because the dog will alert its handler well in advance of contact with those that may be dangerous.”

Carlone added that he hopes the canine could meet boats and planes on-island to prevent narcotics from coming to the island.

“The dog can do so many different things, but each dog is unique and has its own strengths.” said DeMatteo.

DeMatteo said he has already spoken with the program that trains police dogs, and has expressed a need for a “social dog, but one that could also get the job done.” He said the dog would likely be a German, Dutch or Belgian Shepherd.

According to Carlone, the total cost for the dog’s first year is $23,000, which includes an $11,000 purchase price. The second year, care for the dog would be $5,000, and the third year, the cost would be $3,000. Carlone said these funds have been secured by private donations.

The council did not make a formal motion to approve the proposal, but councilors seemed to support it.

“It sounds like a good idea,” said Second Warden Ken Lacoste.

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