The East Wenatchee Police Department is planning to have a drug sniffing dog on the force by next fall. 

Police Chief Rick Johnson gave a presentation to the East Wenatchee City Council Tuesday evening, where he said a rescue dug will be matched with a handler to go through 2-3 months of training in a state Department of Corrections (DOC) program. 

He said they're hoping to be entered into a summer DOC training class with deployment for service in the department by the fall. 

Drug dogs are not currently being trained for Fentanyl detection, although work is being done to reclassify Fentanyl in such a way where the dogs could be trained to search for it. It's hoped that Fentanyl training will be in place by the time East Wenatchee Police are involved in the training program. 

Johnson said the dogs are also not trained on legal substances such as marijuana. The dogs are used to sniff out drugs in order to obtain search warrants, and the process would be compromised if a police dog located what turned out to be legal drugs instead of illicit narcotics.      

A dog already in place at the Chelan County jail is trained on marijuana and utilized in area schools. 

Johnson said there's one dog in the area that's deployed on police calls. It's a dog in Chelan County, and Johnson said it was deployed on 40 calls in the first part of 2023. He said 13 of those calls, or 32 percent, were to assist East Wenatchee Police. 

But Johnson said there were times when they were not able to access any police dogs. "There was numerous times, more than 20, when our guys had requested the Chelan County dog or the State Patrol dog and neither was available," said Johnson. 

He said having a drug sniffing dog on the East Wenatchee Police force would speed up the process of getting search warrants during traffic stops. 

"If you can get a K-9 dog there in a timely manner, less than 20 minutes, the dog can do a perimeter search, or an outside search of the car," Johnson said. "If the dog indicates on the car, that in conjunction with the other information the officers already have can be used to establish probable cause." 

Johnson says once they have the dog, they'll concentrate on suspects thought to have large quantities of drugs in an effort to curb the supply of narcotics on the street.  

As far as funding needs, Johnson told city councilors said it would cost $33,000 to establish the police dog program in the first year, with $15,000 required annually to sustain it. 

City Council member Matthew Hepner said the department has raised about $18,000 through donations and commitments from local entities. 

He said he'd organized more donations though his work in the construction industry and could possibly cover the rest of the money needed to establish the program. Hepner is the Executive Director for the Certified Electrical Workers of Washington. 

Chief Johnson said the department plans to also raise funds through public donations. 

Johnson said the East Wenatchee Police dog would be offered as a regional resource for use by law enforcement agencies.