Moffat County Sheriff’s deputy helping train Craig’s new police dog | CraigDailyPress.com

Moffat County Sheriff’s deputy helping train Craig’s new police dog

Craig Police Department has been without a police canine since 2017.
File photo

Craig doesn’t have its own police pooch anymore, but a Craig Police Department corporal with a knack for drug enforcement wants to change that.

“There has been a gap in our ability to investigate and enforce drug crimes since our previous canine handler, Cpl. Alvin Luker, left our department in August of 2017,” said Corporal Grant Laehr during a meeting of the Craig City Council Tuesday, March 26. “I would like to fill that gap.”

Police Chief Jerry DeLong said the department’s previous canine was trained to alert to marijuana — which is legal now — and DeLong said he wasn’t sure he’d be able to un-train CPD’s canine.

“At that point in time, I just decided to sell the remaining few years on the life of the dog to Cpl. Luker, and he took the dog to Texas, and he’s now employed with a police department in Texas,” DeLong said Tuesday.

Laehr provided council with more than five years worth of drug enforcement data, which shows a steady rise in drug felonies and distribution charges. According to the data, in 2014, CPD handled 31 felony drug cases and five distribution cases. Those two data sets jumped to 88 felony drug cases and 16 distribution cases in 2018. Laehr warned council that 2019 is shaping up to be Craig’s worst year yet for drug charges.

“This year, we’re on an uptick, unfortunately,” Laehr said. “We’re probably going to beat our highest year so far by about another 20 percent based on year-to-date numbers. I think we need to send the message to our community that we are taking a proactive stance on this. I think a canine team … would be an excellent way to do that.”

According to council documents posted on the city’s website, the dog will cost a one-time payment of about $4,000 to Deputy Sgt. Courtland Folks, with Moffat County Sheriff’s Office, who has agreed to train Laehr as the dog’s handler beginning when the dog is still a young puppy — strengthening the bond between Laehr and Craig’s callow canine cop.

About a years worth of training would be needed before the dog would be added to the force for a typical working career of six to eight years. Annual vaccinations, veterinary care, and food will run CPD about $980, along with various one-time purchases for equipment, such as installation of a used cage for the dog’s canine vehicle, a heated outdoor kennel, leashes, harnesses, bowls, and other training equipment, costing a grand total of about $10,000.

“I have reviewed our department’s policy and requirements for working canines and handler,” Laehr said. “I meet the qualifications to become a canine handler and can facilitate the housing, care, training, and other responsibilities outlined in the policy. I have also discussed it with my family, and we are all prepared and excited to take on the responsibility and look forward to having a working canine as a part of our family.”

The alternative trainer to Folks would cost CPD more than $30,000, Laehr said, as Folks lives and works in the Craig community. Folks also trained CPD’s last canine, Thunder.

“This relationship will make this process extremely cost productive and virtually seamless when the time comes that the drug canine is ready to work,” Laehr said of CPD’s relationship with Folks.

Mayor John Ponikvar supported a new drug canine.

“I think it’s great you want to move forward with this,” Ponikvar told Laehr.

The city has already budgeted some money to begin the process of training the dog.

“It’s in the budget to start working and get the peripherals for the dog,” Ponikvar said.

Craig’s new police dog is expected to hit the streets in 2020.

Contact Clay Thorp at 970-875-1795 or cthorp@CraigDailyPress.com.