Police Chief Luth Resolves To Restore Department’s K-9 Capability
by Connie Sartini
What started as a routine overview of the Groton Police Department budget at the joint Select Board and Finance Committee Annual Saturday morning review, ended with a very special surprise for everyone.
Police Chief Mike Luth advised both boards that he has presented a level funded budget, with salaries increasing by 1.5 percent; wages up 3.2 percent and employment benefits up 2.7 percent. He added that his Minor Capital Budget was the same as last year’s.
He noted that the Department lost their canine Officer Lola recently stressing that “she was invaluable in saving lives,” and “this is one of my priorities.” Lola could walk into the Senior Center with her tail wagging, go into the woods tracking bad guys and finding lost persons. She was not trained to be an attack dog. In the past there were lots of donations from the community to cover some of the expense of the $3,000 to maintain a high caliber dog.
Select Board member John Giger noted that he “did not think that public support was dead. I think there are people that will want to help.” (See Letter to the Editor, Page Two)
Chief Luth explained that there is a stipend for the Police Officer that takes the canine home with him and on those days, it is usually a seven-hour shift instead of an eight-hour shift, as comp time. He stressed, You have to allow the Officer to use comp time if it is not a detriment to the department.” He added that to purchase such a high caliber dog costs between $3000 and $5000, which he included in his Minor Capital budget.
Member Becky Pine asked Chief Luth how he could go about getting private donors and Colleague Josh Degen suggested (tongue in cheek) selling tickets with the “winner able to spend the night in jail.”
After listening to the discussion, Finance Committee member Art Prest provided a very special surprise to the crowded room by announcing that he would donate $3000 toward purchase of the new dog. It appears that not only were Board Member Giger’s comments regarding the public’s willingness to help prophetic, but the beginning of public support that started on Saturday morning right in that Conference Room.
And the surprise continued. Following the Saturday meeting, Select Board member John Giger added another $1000 for the purchase of a new dog to join the Groton Police Department.
In the area of Minor Capital, Chief Luth said his prioritized list that includes replacement of body armor that has a useful life of about five years, an updated camera system, the canine purchase, and the purchase of Patrol Rifles. “These are less lethal that shotguns, but it is a tool that can be used to incapacitate.”
His major capital plan includes replacement of two cruisers. He said, “A body style change for new cruisers adds about a 16 percent increase, and the equipment from the old cruisers don’t fit in the new models.”
For FY2022, he is planning for an outbuilding that is secure and can handle hazardous materials. He envisions a block shed with secure doors. He pointed out that the current Police Station was built in 1991, and many of the doors need to be replaced with steel doors.
Chief Luth noted that the Department’s automated fingerprint machine is aging and he anticipates that “by FY2026 it will need to be replaced.”