STAFF WRITER CONNIE SWINNEY
COTTONWOOD SHORES — A drug interdiction program using drug-sniffing dogs will remain on hold for several months until the controversy quells over a dispute about the program, which pitted two former Cottonwood Shores City Council members against the mayor.
“It’s pending implementation,” Mayor Donald Orr said. “The reason we don’t want to implement it right now is because it’s like putting salt in the wound.
“We’ll ease back into this later,” he added.
The dispute started after Cottonwood Shores Police Chief Johnny Liendo drafted a standard operating procedure (SOP) for a canine unit and presented it to the mayor, who then brought it to the council in October to inform them of the pending program.
Two councilmen, Stephen Sherry and Anthony Satsky, resigned over their contention that the council should ultimately review and vote on whether to approve such a program.
Orr maintained that Cottonwood Shores, governed as a General Rule city, has relied primarily on the mayor, city administrator, and department heads to draft and/or review such department procedures.
The police chief, a certified canine handler, also owns two drug-sniffing dogs and offered their use for the proposed drug interdiction program.
By using the chief’s existing resource, the city could save $50,000-$60,000 in one year toward the purchase of a dog, its care, and the cost of a certified drug dog trainer/handler.
Orr and supportive council members viewed the plan as beneficial to the budget as well as a potential effective crime-fighting program for the city.
“All the tools that you can have to prevent that type of situation, you’re a lot better off when you can take advantage of it,” Orr said.
He added he believes such a program could dissuade drug dealers — avoiding other agencies with similar programs — from moving into Cottonwood Shores.
“All communities deal with it,” Orr said. “It’s (a canine program) a deterrent.”
The canine unit is expected to be implemented sometime after the first of 2018.