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Munhall considers adding new police dog to the force

Michael DiVittorio
| Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Munhall police may be seeking a new police dog through the Roethlisberger Foundation.

Police Chief Pat Campbell said his department was contacted by the foundation about acquiring a canine.

The foundation established by Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger assisted in obtaining the department's current dog Rex in 2008, and the chief said an additional dog would be a welcome bonus.

"It's a very positive impact on the department," Campbell said. "I'm just trying to make sure this can be done. It would be a definite advantage. It would be another tool at our disposal. It's not a must-have. It's always a nice tool to have."

Campbell has until the end of this month to apply for the grant, but he may not seek a new dog if there is a cost to the borough.

"I have some questions I need answered before I even apply for this grant, mostly budgetary items," he said. "I know we have a tight budget. I'm not willing to spend more than we have available."

There is $5,000 allocated for the K-9 unit in this year's budget, and the department has spent $718, not counting handlers fees.

Campbell said the K-9 officer receives a stipend equal to two hours of premium pay per week, which currently comes out of the overtime budget and not the K-9 budget.

"It's not as easy as it sounds to get the true number of what the cost is," Campbell said. "We need to get a tighter grip on our accounting software. If I have two dogs, I'm going to have to take two handlers fees."

One issue that seems to be taken care of is the foundation can distribute grants only to qualified 501c3 organizations, according to foundation documents.

Campbell said his department plans on using Munhall Area Prehospital Service's 501c3 classification to help apply for the grant, as it did in 2007 when it applied for the dog obtained in 2008.

The foundation also helped Homestead police acquire a dog in 2008, along with a grant from Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala's office. Steel Valley Enterprise Zone sponsored Homestead's police department for the grant so that the borough could meet the additional eligibility requirements.

Campbell said he is confident the department will be able to apply for the new dog, and does not expect to hear back from the foundation about the dog until after the Super Bowl in February.

Officer David Smoley will become the new K-9 officer, if all goes well.

Campbell said Smoley is a full-time officer with five years experience in the borough, has participated in K-9 training exercises and has a heightened interest in becoming a handler.

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