Operation Drug Dog - Fulton Police
Department, Fulton, Missouri
Drive-by shootings, crack houses, street comer drug
markets--Fulton, Missouri, did not escape the scourge of the
drug epidemic that has spread through the rural cities of the
Midwest in recent years. To combat the problem, the police
department took the usual measures, such as increasing foot
patrols, participating in task forces, using informants, and
rolling possession cases into search warrants. It also
implemented community policing concepts in high-crime and public
housing areas, but the most important ingredient--community
participation--was missing. So, instead of just one problem, the
department faced two: The drug epidemic and an uninvolved
Sniffing Out a Solution
Because crack cocaine can be concealed so easily, officers
knew that they were not finding all of the drugs during
searches. They also realized that every missed cache boosted the
bad guys' confidence.
Knowing that a well-trained dog can
find drugs that officers miss, the chief decided that the
department needed a drug dog to make more effective searches.
Unfortunately, he made that decision in the middle of the fiscal
The timing presented a tough dilemma--raising money
to buy a dog, a critical policing tool, without sacrificing
other services or projects. Once a law enforcement agency's
governing body adopts a budget, particularly a line item
account, alternative funding for unplanned purchases becomes a
very limited proposition. Agency heads either can ask for more
money or borrow from one project to pay for another.
Taking Stock of the Options
During a discussion of the dilemma, the chief wondered if
the department could ask the public to assist with the purchase
of a drug dog. After a bit of comical speculation about the
headlines that such a request would evoke ("Police Department
Asks Taxpayers for Money to Buy a Pet"), I half-jokingly
suggested that the department sell shares and give contributors
certificates of stock in Fulton's drug dog.
the chief shared the idea with the city administrator who, in
turn, presented it to the city council. No one could predict how
the idea would be received until it was made public at the city
council meeting, an announcement we approached with some
trepidation. However, the first council member to speak after
hearing the share-selling plan asked, "Where can I purchase
shares for my kids?" Suddenly, the very people whom the
department had hesitated to ask for more money started to
contribute to the fund and challenged others to do the same. The
council did not discuss any other city business that evening; it
focused solely on finding ways for the police department to
promote the drug dog stock program.
Sharing With the
Shares in the dog could be purchased at three levels:
Individual for $10, civic for $25, and corporate for $100. Stock
certificates were designed and made on a computer, and officers
delivered them in person to stockholders. The day after the
council meeting aired on the local cable access channel, school
children and teachers met the police department's DARE officer
at the door of his first school stop to give him money to buy
shares in the dog.
Two days after the original
announcement, civic organizations began presenting the chief
with rather large checks. The local newspaper traded several
quarter-page ads for one share in the dog. The paper also ran a
daily front-page progress report free of charge. The project
became known as Operation Drug Dog, and when all three local
television stations began to carry the story, contributions
started to pour in from all over central Missouri.
Raiser Fetches a Dog
Within the first week of the program, the department reached
the initial goal of $5,000 to cover the cost of the dog and
training for the handler. It accepted additional money only
after announcing that the goal had been reached and that the
remaining funds would be used for care of the dog. Ultimately,
Operation Drug Dog raised approximately $8,500.
funds, the department purchased Bubba, a 3-year-old Golden
Retriever, trained his handler, and equipped a canine vehicle
for them. The new team started conducting drug searches within
approximately 10 weeks of that initial council meeting.
The program also spawned a newsletter, The Bubba Times, which is
produced quarterly for the supporters of Operation Drug Dog. The
newsletter allows the department to maintain the close contact
with the public that was established during the campaign. It
also informs stockholders of how their money is being spent.
Community Action Dogs Criminals
The community and all members of the Fulton Police
Department made the program a success. Operation Drug Dog simply
represents community policing in its truest form--law
enforcement and the community teaming up to solve their
problems. As it happened, the solution to the crack problem also
solved the community involvement problem.
To the members
of the Fulton Police Department, the amount of money collected
was secondary to the contacts made with law-abiding citizens who
shared identical concerns. Operation Drug Dog illustrates that
police officers need not and should not shoulder complete
responsibility for solving a community's problems. It shows what
can be accomplished when officers team up with citizens to take
stock in the community, or in this case, a drug dog!