The Menominee Police Department will soon join a growing number of law enforcement agencies who believe a K-9 unit is vital for their departments.

The proposal surfaced at a recent meeting of the Public Safety/Public Works Committee. Police Chief Brett Botbyl put forward a plan to set up the preliminary details for implementing the K-9 program, which has been a popular addition to area law enforcement units over the years. The Marinette Police Department, Marinette County Sheriff’s Department and Menominee Sheriff’s Department all have successful K-9 units.

Skeptics may point to those three departments and suggest sharing their K-9 units with the Menominee Police Department. It’s a legitimate question.

Chief Botbyl had rightful answers for the questions. He noted every police dog in Menominee County and in Marinette is trained in marijuana detection, which won’t do any good for the Menominee needs since voters in the state of Michigan have passed new recreational marijuana laws. He added that canines provide additional support for police officers when they are in harm’s way. “It’s a tremendous tool and asset,” he told members of the city council committee.

According to Botbyl, there have been “hundreds of times” when his officers were in need of a police dog and sought help from Marinette or the Menominee County Sheriff’s Department, there was no dog available because it was in service with those departments. He said his department had kept a tally of the number of times this has occurred. He’s not certain if a police dog trained for tracking down marijuana can be used under the new Michigan recreational marijuana law.

Botbyl advised aldermen that Menominee County had the highest methamphetamine rate in the 15-county Upper Peninsula. and the second highest in the state of Michigan in 2018. He said the figures were compiled by the Department of Homeland Security. Furthermore, he reminded aldermen that Menominee recorded the highest overdose rate in the Upper Peninsula last year. He said the presence of a K-9 unit in his department would help to thwart those numbers.

The chief informed the committee the proposed K-9 unit would be 100% self-sufficient through donations. The city’s fiscal budget would not be stressed due to a canine unit, he added.

City Manager Tony Graff advised the committee that the funding to implement the program would come from donations processed through the M&M Are Community Foundation.

Botbyl and Graff made solid arguments for the implementation of a K-9 unit. We are convinced the citizens of the city of Menominee will get behind the program. The statistics on drug use and drug overdose in the Menominee area are alarming. Now with the anticipated increase in the use of recreational marijuana, the spread of other drugs is a concern for local law enforcement authorities.

Specially trained K-9 dogs and their handlers don’t focus only on marijuana. They are superb when it comes to tracking down missing children and adults, in the apprehension of criminals and in locating illicit drug activity in the city. The cities of Menominee and Marinette are considered the gateway to Upper Michigan and Wisconsin when it comes to illegal drug trafficking.

The case for a K-9 unit in Menominee is overwhelming. In fact, it is long overdue. Let’s get a K-9 unit in place and put it to work.