With only a single K-9 in a department that covers 1,340 square miles and 14 square miles of waterways, the Stark County Sheriff's Office with the help of a generous donation officially added a second K-9 in 2-year-old Jerry Lee to its department.
Stark County Sheriff Corey Lee said it was his goal to have two K-9s for the department to use, and were planning on pursuing that goal in March of 2021. However, with the help of a $19,000 donation made by Nellie Mahto, the department was able to push forward much quicker than previously planned.
"In addition to the funds that we already have, towards our K9 program, we decided to pulled the trigger now," Lee said. "We were looking into doing it next March to get the team started but an acquaintance through the U.S. Police Canine Association told me of the dog and I traveled to West Fargo to look at it."
It was then Lee knew the canine would be the newest member of the department.
"I just felt that (the K-9) would fit in with our program," Lee said. "We already have one single purpose dog that does narcotics and tracking and evidence. This dog will do all of that, plus apprehension. It’ll be a dual purpose dog when it is all said and done."
As for the purpose of the added K-9, Lee said it was another necessary tool for the officers to handle the ever growing criminal activities and would ultimately help keep the county safe.
"They add protection for the officers on the street, the safety factor, ultimately these dogs are trained to put themselves in danger for us. It’s a very noble and sometimes sad thing, but they put themselves in danger at times so that we don’t have to," Lee said. "There’s certainly a huge safety issue for our officers and then certainly the people of our county. That dog is not just there to defend (officers) and keep (them) safe, they’re there for every member of Stark County to do the same."
Lee also brought to the commission's attention the increase in thefts and break-ins that have been occurring throughout the county, including in Dickinson.
"These thefts and break-ins are only getting worse, and worse, and worse and we’re seeing a definitive increase this summer over last summer for sure," Lee said. "I’m betting by the end of this year we’re going to have a significant uptake over what we saw last year and majority of these thefts and break-ins are drug related one way or another. Whether those people are under the influence while committing the act or committing the act to get money for drugs, whatever the case may be. That’s another reason why we have these K-9 out there.
"Not only are they going to help us with the narcotics factor whether it’s before or after the fact, of course it will help us at times solve these thefts," Lee added. "Catching these guys in the act and chasing them down or tracking them after the act ... There’s so much diversity to this particular tool that it’s well worth the money."
The Stark County Sheriff Department wrote in a statement to The Press, "(Mahto's) donation was made in honor of Olivia Lone Bear and her family as well as Three Affiliated Tribes, all Missing and Murdered Indigenous People, and all missing North Dakotan's. The Stark County Sheriff's department can not thank Nellie enough for her gracious gift and we look forward to the future successes of our new team."
Currently, Lee is training in Minnesota for 10 weeks and will be certified with his trainer once they return. From there, the K-9 will be officially be part of the team and will assist the SCSO in whatever is needed.
Currently, Lee said there is no intentions of adding a third K-9 to the office. But says there is going to be one of the two dogs out on the street at least once a day.