EPPD’s First Ever K9 Program

By: Police Chief Wes Kufeld

On behalf of the Estes Park Police Department, I am excited to announce we are at the initial stages of implementing a new police K9 program -- the first ever in the history of Estes Park Police Department. A K9 is a highly specialized dog with intensive police training, which enhances our efforts to keep residents and visitors safe. As we roll out this new program in support of public safety, we’re asking for community assistance to fund the program. Read on to learn more, and we hope you’ll join the force behind our K9 initiative.

The staff of the Police Department are faced with new societal pressures every day, so we must stay proactive and remain ahead of the criminal element to protect our community. A K9 is an incredible asset to enhance the capabilities of our patrol officers. In fact, K9 enhanced skills can alert officers to potential hazards, which could save an officer’s life someday. K9s are multi-tasking units within a police force, consisting of the dog and its handler. Their tasks include locating fleeing criminals, missing persons, illegal and hidden drugs, miscellaneous evidence, weapons and stolen property. The unit may be called to search for people, explosives, drugs, or all three at once. Special event patrols are a valuable K9 duty, since large gatherings present heightened safety concerns.

Today’s K9s know the difference between work and play. When not working on a specific task, they are approachable, friendly and affectionate. This flexibility will allow us to offer more opportunities for community engagement and education. Most people can relate to having a dog as a partner, friend and family member – so people of all ages will find K9 demonstrations fun and interesting. These demonstrations can be requested by the public and will help us to foster goodwill and community partnerships.

Estes Park’s K9 unit will be cross-trained so they can provide maximum benefit to the community. The K9 handler receives hundreds of hours of initial training before they, along with the trained K9, can be certified and placed in service to perform their daily duties. Additionally, K9s participate in ongoing education and training on an almost weekly basis to remain current and maintain their certifications. K9 units spend their days on patrol, assisting in calls for service and traffic contacts. A K9 and handler become partners to protect each other in hazardous situations.

Our assigned Officer, Mikel Otazua, will begin his K9 handler training in April. Shortly thereafter we expect to recruit the specific K9 to join our program. The costs to develop this program are considerable, although the return on investment to the community includes many long-term benefits for our community’s safety. To help the Estes Park Police Department cover the costs, we’ve established a fundraising campaign that will help us launch the program, estimated to cost roughly $80,000, and continue operations in the future. Tax-deductible donations will help us fund everything from dog food and toys, to veterinary care, to the dog’s vest and badge, to K9 unit training, to the custom-built kennel the dog will live in at his handler’s home. In addition to accepting general donations, the fully outfitted K9 unit vehicle is available for sponsorship by an individual or organization.

Charitable contributions to governmental units are tax deductible under section 170(c)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code if made for a public purpose. Contributions in support of the K9 program are tax deductible. Donations may also be made by check to the Town of Estes Park (K9 program) and mailed to P.O. Box 1287 in Estes Park, CO 80517.

For more information, or to schedule an officer presentation on the K9 program, please call Captain Eric Rose at 970-577-3827.

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