By Steven Hoffman
Oxford Borough is looking into the possibility of enlisting a trained canine for the police department, but the study is only in the early stages.
“We’re going to look at the overall costs before we go any further,” Police Chief John Slauch said at the council meeting on Monday night. “I think there are a number of pros and a number of cons, but I don’t think you can look at the whole picture until you have any idea of how much it costs.”
Council member Paul Matthews, who first suggested that the borough’s Public Safety Committee study the benefits of adding a trained canine to the police force, said that dogs have proven to be an effective deterrent to drug dealers.
“Any drug dealer loves this town…because they know that we don’t have a dog,” Matthews said, explaining that dogs are usually able to locate drugs much faster than police officers can because of their superior sense of smell.
Currently, canine units are called in to handle bomb threats and to search for drugs, but the borough must rely on the Chester County Sheriff’s Department or the State Police to bring in a trained dog for those incidents.
The borough will have to look at how much it will cost to train the dog and train an officer to work with the dog. A plan would have to be developed for having the designated officer available to respond whenever an incident arises. Police vehicles must be modified to accommodate the dogs. There are insurance issues to consider, too.
Not all council members are convinced that a canine cop is necessary.
“For a police department of our size, we’re getting in over our heads,” said council president Ron Hershey. He noted that no police department of a comparable size in this area has a canine unit.
Council member Sue Lombardi pointed out that because other law enforcement agencies in the area have a canine unit, the borough can utilize dogs during certain situations.
While the costs of bringing in a dog to help the police department will be a major consideration, council member Randy Grace pointed out that it shouldn’t be the only one.
“We’re talking about keeping drugs out of our schools,” said Grace.
In his report to borough council, Oxford Mayor Geoff Henry reported that the police department only had 27.5 hours of overtime in January, far below the two hours of overtime per day that is permitted under the borough’s ordinances without seeking approval from council.
Henry said that he did not remember a month when fewer overtime hours were needed. Police officers routinely accumulate overtime because of court appearances, providing shift coverage, and working during special events.
Oxford Mayor Geoff Henry reminded everyone that March 1 is Eli Matthews Day in remembrance of Eli Matthews, who courageously battled childhood leukemia before passing away in January of 2011. Henry encouraged everyone to wear red and black, Eli’s favorite colors, on that day.