LAWRENCE — Fueled by grant money, Lawrence police will soon have their own dog and a trained canine officer.
The department has not had a canine officer in the past decade due to budget constraints and manpower issues.
But a $25,000 grant by the Stanton Foundation is paving the way for the new unit which officials hope will be involved in everything from crowd control, missing persons searches, narcotics and gun cases, and other community policing efforts.
“This is an incredible grant that’s not costing the community anything,” said Lawrence Police Chief Roy Vasque.
The Stanton Foundation is a private organization established by the late Frank Stanton, a long-time president of Columbia Broadcasting System, “CBS.”
The foundation focuses primarily on three areas in which Stanton was unable to complete his philanthropic plans within his lifetime which includes “advancing canine welfare,” according to the foundation’s website.
Some 10 officers applied to be Lawrence’s canine officer — a larger group than Vasque initially anticipated. Interviews are now underway and Vasque hopes to select the new canine officer within the next two weeks, he said.
Meanwhile, Lawrence officers are working with the Boston Police Department to find a dog, which likely will be a German Shepherd or Belgian Malinois breed, Vasque said.
City councilors recently accepted the $25,000 grant, which will cover the cost of purchasing the dog, retrofitting a cruiser, kennel facilities at the officer’s home and the food and veterinary care for the first three years.
Vasque said the department also plans to apply to the Stanton Foundation for a second grant.
On weekends now, a canine and handler from the Essex County Sheriff’s Department is stationed in Lawrence to help with investigations and crowd control at events.
Vasque said the department always appreciates help from other agencies, however needs its own canine units.
“To help with missing kids, drug issues, search warrants, crowd control outside the clubs and larger events. We can’t always rely on outside agencies,” he said. “It’s really a no brainer for the community. This is not going to cost us anything.”
In the future, Vasque said he hopes the dog can be introduced in schools, at senior events and neighborhood meetings.
“It’s definitely a community policing tool,” Vasque said.
Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera also backed the move.
“This effort will continue Chief Vasque’s work to bring more tools to fight crime in Lawrence,” said Rivera, noting the canine unit is “another force multiplier.”
Vasque and Amanda Wall, the Police Department’s budget and finance director, applied for the grant from the Stanton Foundation this spring.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.