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September 30, 2014

City Council allocates funds for new drug dog

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Posted: Thursday, August 28, 2014 10:13 am | Updated: 10:18 am, Thu Aug 28, 2014.

The Heflin City Council on Tuesday voted to spend $2,600 on a new drug dog for the city’s police department.

The department has been without a police dog since July, when police dog Addi retired. Heflin police Chief A. J. Benefield told the council members at their meeting that the department had found a dog available from another department for $4,800, including two days of training for the animal and the officer who’ll handle him.

The department had priced dogs and they were going for up to $15,000, so this represents a good deal, Benefield said. There is nothing wrong with the dog, he added, and Benefield and another officer have seen it work, Benefield said. The dog’s handler left the other department and so that department is trying to relocate the dog, he said.

“It’s not an apprehension dog or a tracking dog,” Benefield said. “It’s strictly a drug dog.”

The department has been taking donations through its foundation and has raised $2,200 toward the cost of a new dog, Benefield said. The department also has filed to seize more than $3,000 in property found during arrests. The hearing on the seizure should be in November, he said.

If the city fronts the money to buy the dog, the department would reimburse it after the seizure is approved in court, Benefield said.

Officer Danny Turner, who is new to the department, has handled two other dogs and is interested in becoming the K-9 officer for the department, Benefield said.

“I’ve already got facilities from the K-9s I’ve had before,” Turner said. “I’ve handled dogs for 16 years of my career.”

He would keep the dog at his home with his family, Turner said.

The officer would be entitled to an additional 7 to 7 1/2 hours per week of pay for upkeep of the dog, Mayor Rudy Rooks said.

Benefield said his goal is that property seizure money would cover expenses connected with the dog, such as the additional pay for the officer.

Since Addi’s been gone, the department has had to rely on Oxford police to have access to a drug dog and a few times the officer has been unavailable, Benefield said. Police can detain people stopped for a traffic violation for only 45 minutes to wait for the dog, Benefield said.

“I don’t see how we can afford not to have a dog,” said Councilman Elvin Henson.

The dogs are also a public relations tool for the department, Rooks said, helping to build rapport between police and schoolchildren when police get to show off their animals.

Councilman Shannon Roberts said he thought the city should have the dog at least for the schools.

The council unanimously approved the purchase.

In other business the council members:

— Approved an agreement with the Heflin Industrial Development Board allowing the board to market property the city owns.

— Approved an updated Standard Operating Procedure manual for Heflin police. The new manual adds an active shooter policy and corrects an oversight that left the lieutenant out of the chain of command.

— Discussed allocating the city’s lodging tax revenue to the industrial board. The council members will vote on the allocation at the September meeting

— Discussed a request by Matt Miles, owner of the former Buster Miles Chevrolet on Ross Street, to help fund a new system on the property to handle storm water runoff. Rooks said he discussed the request with the city attorney, an engineer and the Alabama League of Municipalities.

“The consensus is that we’re not responsible for that water,” Rooks said. “I’ll have to talk to Matt.”

— Rooks swore in officers Justin Fordham, Jay Skinner and Danny Turner.

The next meeting will be Sept. 16 at 5:30 p.m at heflin recreation cntr.

Staff Writer Laura Camper 256-463-2872 in Heflin, 256-235-3545 in Anniston. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.

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