LEE — By Labor Day, the Lee Police Department expects to add a four-legged crime-fighter to the local police force.
The department has received a $25,000 private grant to establish its first canine unit to assist in the search for suspects, missing person, drugs and other evidence of a crime.
Lee Police Chief Joseph Buffis says the money from the New York-based Stanton Foundation will pay for acquiring the dog, training its handler and other expenses for a three-year period.
“The presence of the dog may deter property crimes as people will know we can track them,” Buffis said. “The dog will also be a great public relations tool for the community and the police department.”
Officer Craig DeSantis has been designated to be the dog’s handler and in mid-July he’ll begin a six week training course at a Pennsylvania dog kennel that specializes in police dogs. DeSantis says he’ll be choosing his new partner from three breeds of dogs: Dutch shepherd, German shepherd and Belgian Malenois, another type of shepherd.
“I’m looking a dog that is the best fit for me and best fit for the town,” said the 17-year veteran of the Lee police force.
Upon completion the training, DeSantis will be responsible for man’s best friend 24/7 by making the dog part of his family.
Lee is looking to join Pittsfield, Lanesborough, North Adams, Williamstown and the Berkshire Sheriff’s Office as the other local law enforcement agencies with canine units.
While the Lee Board of Selectmen support the canine unit, the concern is funding the unit after the initial funding runs out. Buffis has said he will explore raising other private donations for the annual $3,000 to $4,000 needed to maintain the canine unit beyond the three-year grant.