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Operation Drug Dog.

Drive-by shootings, crack houses, street comer drug markets--Fulton, Missouri, did not escape the scourge of the drug epidemic that has spread through the rural cities of the Midwest in recent years. To combat the problem, the police department took the usual measures, such as increasing foot patrols, participating in task forces, using informants, and rolling possession cases into search warrants. It also implemented community policing concepts in high-crime and public housing areas, but the most important ingredient--community participation--was missing. So, instead of just one problem, the department faced two: The drug epidemic and an uninvolved community.

Sniffing Out a Solution

Because crack cocaine can be concealed so easily, officers knew that they were not finding all of the drugs during searches. They also realized that every missed cache boosted the bad guys' confidence.

Knowing that a well-trained dog can find drugs that officers miss, the chief decided that the department needed a drug dog to make more effective searches. Unfortunately, he made that decision in the middle of the fiscal year.

The timing presented a tough dilemma--raising money to buy a dog, a critical policing tool, without sacrificing other services or projects. Once a law enforcement agency's governing body adopts a budget, particularly a line item account, alternative funding for unplanned purchases becomes a very limited proposition. Agency heads either can ask for more money or borrow from one project to pay for another.

Taking Stock of the Options

During a discussion of the dilemma, the chief wondered if the department could ask the public to assist with the purchase of a drug dog. After a bit of comical speculation about the headlines that such a request would evoke ("Police Department Asks Taxpayers for Money to Buy a Pet"), I half-jokingly suggested that the department sell shares and give contributors certificates of stock in Fulton's drug dog.

Surprisingly, the chief shared the idea with the city administrator who, in turn, presented it to the city council. No one could predict how the idea would be received until it was made public at the city council meeting, an announcement we approached with some trepidation. However, the first council member to speak after hearing the share-selling plan asked, "Where can I purchase shares for my kids?" Suddenly, the very people whom the department had hesitated to ask for more money started to contribute to the fund and challenged others to do the same. The council did not discuss any other city business that evening; it focused solely on finding ways for the police department to promote the drug dog stock program.

Sharing With the Community

Shares in the dog could be purchased at three levels: Individual for $10, civic for $25, and corporate for $100. Stock certificates were designed and made on a computer, and officers delivered them in person to stockholders. The day after the council meeting aired on the local cable access channel, school children and teachers met the police department's DARE officer at the door of his first school stop to give him money to buy shares in the dog.

Two days after the original announcement, civic organizations began presenting the chief with rather large checks. The local newspaper traded several quarter-page ads for one share in the dog. The paper also ran a daily front-page progress report free of charge. The project became known as Operation Drug Dog, and when all three local television stations began to carry the story, contributions started to pour in from all over central Missouri.

Fund Raiser Fetches a Dog

Within the first week of the program, the department reached the initial goal of $5,000 to cover the cost of the dog and training for the handler. It accepted additional money only after announcing that the goal had been reached and that the remaining funds would be used for care of the dog. Ultimately, Operation Drug Dog raised approximately $8,500.

With the funds, the department purchased Bubba, a 3-year-old Golden Retriever, trained his handler, and equipped a canine vehicle for them. The new team started conducting drug searches within approximately 10 weeks of that initial council meeting.

The program also spawned a newsletter, The Bubba Times, which is produced quarterly for the supporters of Operation Drug Dog. The newsletter allows the department to maintain the close contact with the public that was established during the campaign. It also informs stockholders of how their money is being spent.

Community Action Dogs Criminals

The community and all members of the Fulton Police Department made the program a success. Operation Drug Dog simply represents community policing in its truest form--law enforcement and the community teaming up to solve their problems. As it happened, the solution to the crack problem also solved the community involvement problem.

To the members of the Fulton Police Department, the amount of money collected was secondary to the contacts made with law-abiding citizens who shared identical concerns. Operation Drug Dog illustrates that police officers need not and should not shoulder complete responsibility for solving a community's problems. It shows what can be accomplished when officers team up with citizens to take stock in the community, or in this case, a drug dog!

Deputy Chief Latham serves in the Fulton, Missouri, Police Department.
COPYRIGHT 1994 Federal Bureau of Investigation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1994, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Fulton Police Department, Fulton, Missouri
Author:Latham, Charles M.
Publication:The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin
Date:Oct 1, 1994
Words:872
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