MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

June 8, 2013

Police chief says Porter trustee vote to drop drug dog bad move

Porter’s police chief, as well as the town’s mayor, expressed disappointment Friday after town trustees voted to end their contract with a K-9 officer.

Porter Police Department Chief Darryl Jay said the contract with Officer Lee Phillips and his dog was terminated as of Thursday night. The vote, mayor Richard Keck said, was 3-1 in favor of eliminating the contract. Keck said his was the only vote in favor of keeping the contract.

Dennis Holes, the town’s vice mayor, and trustees Ron Hart and Brent Fatkin voted to terminate the contract. Trustee Steve Rush was not present at the meeting, Keck said.

“I could see their side of it, but I think that the dog was an asset,” Keck said. “But none of the rest felt that way. I thought the dog was a help to the community, but like I said, the other three didn’t, so here we are. The only way I could see voting was no against termination.”

The trustees position, Keck said, was that Porter was too small to need a K-9 unit. They also said the townspeople expressed a desire to not have the dog.

“If that’s true,  I’d like to see a poll done,” Jay said. “If you have five to ten people out of a community of 600 say they don’t want the K-9, well that’s still 590 people that might want it.”

Jay said the K-9 went into service in November. The contract with the town was for $1, Jay said.

“Officer Phillips purchased the dog and pays for his upkeep and training himself,” Jay said.

Jay also noted the K-9 car kennel was donated by the Fort Gibson Police Department and installed by Jay and Phillips.

“The only cost was a one-time $95 for training,” Jay said.

Jay disagreed with the trustees’ decision, saying there had been no safety issue with Phillips and the K-9, no allegations of wrongdoing, and that the dog was covered by the town’s insurance.

“It wasn’t costing the town a cent,” Jay said.

Jay said rumors that the city was paying $300 a week for the dog’s food were unfounded, as well.

The police chief also said that the department was recently involved in a drug bust netting 22 pounds of marijuana, indicating a high presence of drugs in the community and necessitating the K-9’s presence. The department, Jay said, had ongoing cases with the Drug  Enforcement Agency, Internal Revenue Service and District 27 Drug Task Force. And, Jay said, drug interdiction — a valuable source of income for departments without substantial funding — will not be possible without the K-9.

“When you work drug interdiction, drug money that’s recovered is split up between agencies who work the interdiction,” Jay said. “That’s potential revenue the city doesn’t have access to now.”  

Keck called Phillips an “excellent officer,” and said the possibility remained that the K-9 could return.

“A lot of it depends on what happens within the next months and year,” Keck said. “If the town shows a need or desire to have the dog, then I’m sure we’ll have it back.”

Reach Dylan Goforth at (918) 684-2903 or dgoforth@muskogeephoenix.com.

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