Police pitch council on city K9 program

Fort Madison Police Sgt. Greg Worsch presents information on bringing a K9 officer to the Fort Madison Police Department at Tuesday's City Council meeting. Photo by Chuck Vandenberg/PCC

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR

FORT MADISON – The Fort Madison Police Department pitched city officials for a four-legged officer Tuesday night.

If the Fort Madison City Council gives its blessing to adding a K9 program in the city, it will be the fourth animal in the county. Fort Madison Mayor Matt Mohrfeld told the council he was putting the program on the agenda for the next council meeting in February.

The Lee County Sheriffs’ Department currently has two K9 officers, Kion and Gunner, and the Keokuk Police Department has a dog on their staff, as well.

Fort Madison Sergeant Greg Worsch presented a slide show outlining the benefits and costs of the program.

Worsch said 129 grams of meth, 182 grams of marijuana, 9,882 milligrams of illegal prescriptions, one gram of cocaine and 77 grams of ecstasy were confiscated in 2021 in Fort Madison.

Worsch said the biggest question as to why Fort Madison needs a dog is why when the county has two dogs and the Iowa State Penitentiary has three, does Fort Madison need to add one.

“The biggest thing would be response times. Obviously prison guard handlers and deputies have their own lives and responsibilities,” Worsch said.

He said often times the county handler would be on the opposite side of the county and the prison employees are plenty busy and can’t get away.

The K9 animal would be used in similar fashion as the Lee County K9 officers and Keokuk officers, which is detecting narcotics and tracking, as well as finding weapons, and officer safety.

“There’s a huge benefit to having a partner with you in a squad car at all times. Traffic stops that turn deadly or confrontational. The squad cars are equipped so an officer can just push a button and the door pops open and the K9 is right there to assist,” Worsch said.

Police Chief Mark Rohloff said the Lee County K9 Association has been helpful in preliminary conversations about the police department getting an animal.

Rohloff said a lot of the county’s fundraising was done in population centers and they welcomed the idea of a dog in Fort Madison with open arms.

He said fundraising efforts coupled with grants could end up paying for the dogs, but there has to be a commitment from the city to make those things happen.

“We know there is a direct correlation between drug crimes and other crimes. Obviously the effectiveness comes with the dog and its ability to detect drugs and help us with searches and make arrests,” Rohloff said.

“It’s a terrific deterrent to criminal activity in the city. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that drug-related crimes perpetuate 21% of thefts, 40% of property crimes, and 14% of violence in a community.”

He said the K9 officer will be a rapid deterrent to crime in the city and will help immediately with drug enforcement and detection, all things that will benefit the city going forward.

“We want Fort Madison to be an attractive place for people to come and move to. We want to have a low crime rate, high quality-of-living standards, a clean community. We want to provide a good quality of living and a lot of that can be adversely affected by the amount of crime in a community,” Rohloff said.

“We’re asking the council to get behind us in this project. We understand money is tight, but this is also something you’re going to find the community is in support of.”

The start-up costs were listed at about $77,000 with an ongoing annual cost of about $4,200. He said the start-up costs have variables including grant opportunities and private contributions to the program.

In other action, the council:
• voted 7-0 to reduce the planning and zoning commission to five members from seven on a second reading. The final reading will take place in two weeks and, if approved, will change the number on the commission.
• voted 7-0 to approve dog/cat fees for $10 per altered dog/cat and $20 for unaltered dogs and cats. There is a $10 late fee for licensing. A $50 impoundment fee will be charged per occurrence for the recovery, care, treatment necessary for the welfare of the animal. A daily impound fee of $10 per day was also approved.
• approved the appointments of Dianna Holmes (Historic Preservation Commission); Josh Leyh (Parks, Recreation, and Docks Board) and Marty Dean (Southeast Iowa Regional Riverboat Commission).

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