CITY OF GROSSE POINTE — Municipal leaders are adopting a pack mentality to fund a new police dog.
“The cost needs to be fairly allocated among the communities that are using the resource,” said City of Grosse Pointe Councilwoman Jean Weipert.
The City was the first and only Grosse Pointe to have a public safety K-9, Raleigh, a German shepherd, bought in 2005.
Even before the 9-year-old dog died in November due to illness, municipal officials were seeking ways to spread the cost of K-9 operations between the jurisdictions that sought its tracking and drug-detecting skills.
“Raleigh was good at what he did,” said Councilman Christopher Boettcher. “The only problem was, he only worked as many hours as his boss did.”
Demands for Raleigh often meant his handler, Sgt. Michael Almeranti, worked overtime.
“The vast majority of calls Sgt. Almeranti and Raleigh went on were not in the City of Grosse Pointe,” said Mayor Dale Scrace.
“The city was eating a lot of the costs while the surrounding communities were reaping the benefits,” Weipert said.
The K-9 team patrolled the community in a specially outfitted cruiser and kept current on refresher training.
Raleigh proved his worth beyond public relations appearances at elementary schools by rounding up fleeing criminal suspects and finding illegal narcotics.
It wasn’t enough for the other Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods to each contribute about $2,000 per year to help support the City’s K-9 operation.
Fears that the unit was becoming economically unsustainable prompted former City Councilman John Stevens to establish a tax-exempt fundraising group, K-9 Safety Partners of the Grosse Pointes.
Members of the group, including current and former municipal administrators and elected officials in the Grosse Pointe-Harper Woods mutual aid pact, voluntarily raise funds for pact members wanting to establish or expand a K-9 department.
“The need of a K-9 in each city is clear by providing additional daytime and nighttime safety on the streets,” Stevens said in an e-mail.
In September, the partners donated $2,400 to help establish a K-9 unit in Harper Woods.
Intended to double the eastside suburbs’ police dog presence and reduce handler overtime, Raleigh’s death means the cities are back at the level they started.
“The loss of Raleigh has created a real void,” Stevens said.
Eleise Garrett, a City resident, values a police dog’s effectiveness.
“I know it costs money,” she said. “But a K-9 can get somebody a lot quicker than someone with two legs.”
She wants Raleigh’s replacement patrolling the streets with Almeranti without delay.
If there’s not room in the municipal budget to pay for it, Garrett said she’d support raising funds by issuing municipal bonds.
City Councilman John Stempfle said he thinks the matter will be resolved in one or two months.
A memorial for Raleigh is scheduled at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 22, in city council chambers.