The future of the Buffalo Grove Police Department’s K-9 program remains in limbo, as some village officials want to maintain the furry officer while others say it might be time for him to retire.
The discussion comes as village officials look for ways to reduce spending as they work to balance next year’s budget. Village administrators recommend eliminating the dog but keeping its human counterpart to save nearly $38,000.
Another option is to modify the program by reassigning the K-9 officer to a shift, completing all training on duty and adjusting the stipend for the program. The modified program, suggested by Police Chief Steven Casstevens, would save the department about $15,000.
While the proposed cost savings might seem small compared to the village’s annual budget, “$30,000 here and $30,000 there is a lot of what’s gotten us to where we are now,” said Village Manager Dane Bragg, who recommends eliminating the program.
The recommendation comes as the village whittles away at a projected $2 million deficit next year and looks for ways to boost revenue to maintain a strong fund balance.
“I don’t think the K-9 program is essential. That doesn’t mean it’s not valuable,” said Bragg, who noted that this is an “emotional decision” for officials to make.
The dog is used to stiff out drugs in high school lockers and is used for some traffic stops. It also benefits the department’s image, some said.
“No chief wants to get rid of a K-9 if for no other reason than the public relations. Kids love it. Parents love it,” Casstevens said.
Trustees Beverly Sussman and Andy Stein were the two biggest supporters of continuing the program.
“I am in favor of keeping the K-9 program 100 percent. I will not vote to eliminate it,” Sussman said.
“It just makes sense, especially with the [modifications],” Stein said.
Trustee Les Ottenheimer suggested keeping the program for at least another year, until better data is available for review.
“I think historically the department hasn’t done a good job of keeping rack of what the K-9 has done,” Casstevens said. While records show when the dog used for locker checkers, there isn’t a good log of other uses, such as traffic stops, he said.
Trustee Mike Terson said he thinks the village staff, not the Village Board, should decide whether the program stays or goes.
“For me, this is not a policy decision, it’s a staff decision,” Terson said. “I understand the concept of coming to us when you want to spend more money. I don’t understand the concept of coming to us when you want to spend less money.”
The K-9, named Saxon, completed his training in June 2011 and began working soon after. Casstevens said police dogs typically serve for four to five years.
“Maybe that’s a consideration, we run with this program until the dog is done,” Trustee Jeff Berman said.
“I hate to spend money that is not essential now,” Braiman replied. “If we’re going to have a staff reduction, I’d rather reduce a K-9 than a person.”
Board members said they will hear input from Trustee Steve Trilling, who was not at the meeting, before deciding how to proceed.
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