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News >  Idaho

Latah County’s K-9 unit to start next summer if approved by commissioners

UPDATED: Wed., June 6, 2018

By Garrett Cabeza Moscow-Pullman Daily News

Latah County Sheriff Richie Skiles says a K-9 unit would start at the sheriff’s office next summer if the county commissioners approve the department’s request in August – when the county’s fiscal year 2018-19 budget, which begins Oct. 1, will likely be set.

Skiles said the main reason he wants to acquire a drug-sniffing dog is to deter trafficking in Latah County.

Skiles told county commissioners last week during a budget presentation that the department’s lack of a K-9 unit has made the county a hotbed for drug traffickers.

Skiles asked the commissioners for $10,000 for the upcoming budget year to fund the purchase of the dog, training and supplies.

Skiles told the commissioners drug traffickers typically avoid doing large transactions in the surrounding counties because Benewah, Lewis, Asotin and – up until recently – Whitman County sheriff’s offices have K-9 units. Skiles said drug traffickers are opting to make their deals in Latah County because the sheriff’s office does not currently have a K-9.

He said trained dogs’ ability to smell narcotics provide law enforcement probable cause to search a vehicle or space and seize drugs, drug paraphernalia or other contraband.

Before purchasing a dog, Skiles said the sheriff’s office would contact a company that trains police dogs and try to find a quality match between the dog and the deputy who would work with the animal.

Skiles said one of the keys is finding a deputy who has the passion for working with the dog.

“You gotta get somebody’s who’s kind of on fire for it,” Skiles said.

He said the deputy would undergo training for a month with the dog and an Idaho Peace Officer Standards and Training-certified dog handler and trainer.

The deputy would receive additional education training periodically after the initial one-month training, Skiles said.

“A lot of people think it’s going to be a neat addition to the sheriff’s department,” Skiles said.

Skiles said the dog, which would likely either be a German shepherd or a Labrador retriever, would be able to sniff out cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana – some of the most prevalent drugs in the county, Skiles said.

Commissioner Dave McGraw said he is receptive to the idea of a K-9 unit.

“If there’s room in the budget for it, I think it’s a pretty good idea,” McGraw said.

He said methamphetamine and heroin are big problems in the county, and he is in favor of providing deputies another tool to combat those drugs and keep residents safe.

Skiles, who was elected to sheriff in November 2016, originally said during his campaign he would like to bring back a drug dog to Latah County. However, there were other priorities in the 2017-18 budget that needed to be addressed first. The county previously had two K-9 units but decided not to continue the program after the last dog retired due to age in 2006.

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