BY JOHN H. WALKER
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
Why did the Tarboro Police Department go from four K9 units to two?
It’s a decision Tarboro Police Chief Damon Williams is asked about on a somewhat regular basis, but it just happens to be one he had nothing to do with.
Williams was hired in May 2012 and the decision to reduce the number of dogs in the program came before that, following a March 8 written presentation by then interim chief Bill Braswell to the town council and administration.
The decision was apparently an internal one, as no discussion of reducing the program was on either the March of April town council agenda and a review of the minutes of those meetings finds no mention of the program.
“I didn’t do it,” Williams said. “I’m very supportive of the K9 program and started one when I was in Maxton, but the decision had already been made when I got here.” “The dogs are very effective and have had some good successes, but it gets to the point of doing with what you have.”
Town Manager Alan Thornton said he was also supportive of the program, but that it wasn’t cost-effective when Tarboro had mutual aid agreements with the Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Department, Rocky Mount, Wilson and the state and they all had dogs available.
The intensity of questions regarding the program’s reduction intensified following a June 26 meeting of the Golden K Club that featured Cpl. Mike Trevathan and his K9, Tazer.
According to an eight-page report prepared by Braswell and made available by Thornton, the decision was largely based on financial considerations.
At the Golden K meeting, Trevathan responded to a question as to why the program had been cut with, “I can’t tell you that. I haven’t been given a good answer. Money in the past came from the town budget.”
When he was asked for an explanation, club member Rick Page, a member of the council and current candidate for mayor, said, “I don’t know why the program was cut. I’ll find out why.” Page added that he felt the thought process from the police department was a switch to community policing, placing officers in schools and working to stop persons from becoming criminals.
But according to the March 8 document, community policing had nothing to do with the decision.
The report starts with a two-line purpose, which read “Is to reduce the number of K-9’s (sic) from four to two and have the remaining two on call out for the opposite shift they work.
Next is a two-line reason: By reducing the number of K-9s it will increase the presence of officers and availability for calls for service. Also, all expenditures related to the K-9 program will be reduced by 50%.”
The presentation is broken down into costs for training ($6,000 saved annually), compensation time ($7,000 saved annually), dog food ($860 saved annually), veterinarian bills ($850 saved annually) fuel consumption ($3,456 saved annually,
The report included 79 usage reports for K9 Bullitt, three for K9 Santos and 77 for Tazer for the period beginning Jan. 1, 2012 and ending Dec. 31, 2012 — which would have been impossible as the summary report was dated March 8, 2012. On those three usage reports, the medical cost for each K9 was shown as “$0.00.”
The report also said “The cost to the Town of Tarboro is $324.00 in pay to compensate the two officers who will be on call during the year. This amount is the increase of salary of which will be paid to them above what they were making when compensated 7 hours for feeding and maintenance.”
The report also compared the size of K9 forces in Tarboro with Rocky Mount, Greenville, Cary and Edgecombe County. In each jurisdiction, the report noted, the K9-to-citizen ratio was 1 to 20,000, while in Tarboro it was 1 to 3,000.
“I see no reason why the Town of Tarboro cannot reduce their (sic) ratio to 1 to 6,000. This would still be above most jurisdiction ratios in the entire State of North Carolina.”