Morro Bay’s Police Department has fought the budget battle since 2005, when it lost most of its special assignment programs that were considered extras. Chief Tim Olivas understands, but he is convinced special programs — a police dog, motor patrol, narcotics unit and Drug Abuse Resistance Education — are incentives to recruit and retain officers when competitive salary increases are not budgeted.
“Advancement opportunities are minimal in small departments,” Olivas said. “But special training programs can offer job diversity and experience.”
In 2007, the Friends of the Morro Bay Police was formed to raise money for department needs the city doesn’t fund.
Friends’ President Doug Riddell said the group has helped with several projects, including remodeling the break room and producing the Thanksgiving Day dinner, but it hadn’t found its true mission until the board rallied around bringing back a police dog.
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“Dogs are backup — a partner to another officer,” Olivas said. “They can be crossed-trained for several functions. A three-hour building search a dog will do in one hour.
“A dog doesn’t carry 30 lbs. of hardware while in pursuit on our sandy beaches. Morro Bay has a meth problem like most communities. A dog is 33 percent more effective sniffing out drugs.
“If the high school suspects drugs in lockers, we won’t have to open them. A dog will find it,” he added.
Anticipation for a police dog has been positive. The Friends of the Morro Bay Police thought it would take two years to fund the $60,000 startup costs.
However, when given the chance to learn about the benefits of a police dog for the department and the community, people buy T-shirts and mugs, donate $100 for a memorial coin, or jump in as Chris Christiansen did at Thursday’s Community Forum to challenge the room to match his $1,000 donation.
The nonprofit group instantly collected $4,000 more to add to the $30,000 it has banked since July.
Morro Bay’s Rick Hobbs, a retired Fresno County sheriff’s deputy, joined the Friends of the Morro Bay Police specifically to promote a Morro Bay police dog program.
“I know dogs will deter crime here. I know firsthand two officers with dogs stopped a drunken brawl of 1,000 folks at a festival in Fresno.
“I owe it to my partner Duke. He saved my life,” Hobbs explained. “Entering a warehouse, Duke alerted me to let him in first. A guy was waiting with a handgun to kill me. He wasn’t going back to prison, he told me.”
The Friends of the Morro Bay Police are planning a K-9 Walk on June 18, and Jenny Brantlee announced all proceeds earned at her annual Mother’s Day Best of Bay Dog Show will benefit the proposed police dog program.
“The dog will belong to the community,” Olivas said. “He’ll just live and work and protect our department.”
Reach Judy Salamacha at 801-1422 or firstname.lastname@example.org.