Belfield Police Department could be welcoming a new K-9 officer to its ranks in 2020.

The Belfield City Council in October approved Police Chief Steve Byrne's request to raise the funds needed for a dual purpose K-9.

"I'm currently meeting with businesses and community members emphasizing the importance of our K-9 program," Byrne told The Dickinson Press.

An account has been set up at Choice Bank in Belfield exclusively for funds for the startup and continuation of the police department's K-9 program.

Once an adequate number of pledges have been received, the BPD will acquire the new K-9.

"Our goal is to establish our K-9 unit through donations and fundraising and maintain the K-9 through the police department budget," Byrne said.

Belfield's previous K-9 officer Zeus served both Belfield and the southwest North Dakota area from 2013 through 2019.

In August, Zeus was diagnosed with metastasizing melanoma and was euthanized.

A K-9 officer is a vital part of a law enforcement team and a community, Byrne said.

"Having a K-9 on the force is instrumental in assisting our law enforcement team build positive relationships with our community, which in turn translates into support for our agency," he said. "With the growing concern of illegal narcotic usage surrounding our area, our K-9 will be used to combat that issue as much as possible."

A K-9 officer also assists in providing safety in area schools and is utilized in emergency response plans.

"Kids are excited to see the K-9, interested in what a K-9 can do to help keep a community safe, and build an excitement to see a police officer instead of wanting to turn and walk away from them," Byrne said.

K-9s can also serve as immediate backup if other team members are not immediately in the area or are responding from a far distance.

In preparing to acquire a new K-9, Byrne has been visiting training facilities and speaking with K-9 handlers and trainers through North Dakota and in neighboring states.

Byrne has also involved the community in his search, including Belfield Public Schools and area law enforcement agencies.

"It's important that this isn't just the efforts of one individual," he said. "This is the efforts of a community to come together and pull resources to improve this law enforcement department and make this a safer community through a team concept."

The new K-9's handler will be going to Minnesota to complete extensive training. The K-9 will then be trained in narcotic detection, evidence search, tracking, obedience, area searches, building searches, and criminal apprehension.

Byrne said he is excited about the BPD possibly welcoming a new K-9 soon.

"I am most proud of the opportunity that a K-9 can give a law enforcement agency to build relationships with the community, especially the kids," he said. "A K-9 can give our team an opportunity to break down barriers with kids in the school and community through outreach and presentations."

He added, "The K-9 program has always been a passion of mine and we look forward to continuing that opportunity for our area."

To contribute, checks can be sent to Choice Bank, P.O. Box 248, Belfield, ND 58622. Make the checks payable to City of Belfield, and in the memo write "K-9 donation."