Lakewood Board, Police At Odds Over K-9 Grant

LAKEWOOD – The Lakewood Village Board has yet to make a decision about adding a K-9 unit to its police department.

John Bentley, Lakewood-Busti police chief, who had applied to the Department of Homeland Security and received a grant of approximately $59,000, said that board members simply need to accept the grant for the unit to come to fruition.

“I’m waiting on the village to make up (its) mind,” Bentley said. “We’ll see what happens.”

A K-9 unit, which includes both a dog and a sport utility vehicle in which to transport it, will be a welcome addition, according to the police chief, who was quick to point out that the Lakewood-Busti Police Department did not have such a unit, and could have used one on multiple occasions.

“I could have used a K-9 unit twice in the last two weeks,” Bentley said. “It’s inconvenient (to request dogs from other agencies).”

Bentley described an episode where a person was lost in the woods for more than an hour because a dog was not available close by. None were available in the county at the time because of handlers being on vacation or going through training.

“I could have used a closer dog at that point in time,” Bentley said. “It’s just more convenient to have our own.”

Lakewood Mayor David Wordelmann, while sympathetic to Bentley’s needs, voiced the concerns of the village board.

“First of all, do we actually need a K-9 unit?” asked Wordelmann, who indicated that the dog-as per the grant’s stipulation-will be a bomb-sniffing dog, not a drug-sniffing dog. “How many bombs do we have in Lakewood?”

Wordelmann also said that a trained dog handler, if reassigned to another department, will likely take the dog with him or her. This, according to the mayor, would be a lost investment.

Finally, although the Homeland Security Department will provide a yearly $20,000 stipend to maintain the unit, this money-like any other federal grant- is not guaranteed every year and can be affected by budgetary constraints.

This notwithstanding, Bentley is hoping the grant will still be approved.

“It would get our foot in the door … down the road we could possibly buy another dog and I could develop it to do the narcotics work that we need to do,” Bentley said. “It’s just about getting the village board members and the community to get on board with it.”

There are currently five K-9 units in Chautauqua County: two at the Sheriff’s Office, one at the New York State Police office in Jamestown, one with the Dunkirk Police Department and one with the Jamestown Police Department.