K9 Program

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Changes at the EPPD prompt reconsideration of K9 program 

By Corey Pass, Interim Chief of Police

At the Estes Park Police Department (EPPD), we are committed to maintaining the trust of the community by providing the very best public safety services. Community members rate our services among the very highest year after year. Our commitment to you includes constantly evaluating our operations and services, striving to balance the needs of our community with the resources available to us. One of our highest priorities as a department is striving to match our staffing to the steadily increasing number of calls for law enforcement assistance of all types in our jurisdiction. The department has seen an increase of approximately 14 percent in calls for service since 2019, and a 16 percent increase in 911 calls since 2019. The Town and our elected board are committed to supporting our staffing needs. But it’s also our responsibility to maximize what we return on your investment in us. With that in mind, I’ve made the difficult decision to discontinue the EPPD’s K9 program and redirect resources to other priorities.

This will certainly be a disappointment to many in the community, as it is to us. So I’d like to share the thought process behind this decision. The K9 unit consists of a dog, “Diego,” and a single officer, who have trained extensively and continually since the partnership began in 2019. The program was established through tremendous community support and donations. Since day one, the officer and K9 have been a highly valued part of the EPPD team and an important resource for Estes Park. However, the K9 Officer has chosen to relocate to a new agency later this summer – an agency that is not in need of a K9 unit. We’re disappointed to see our Officer go, but we’re pleased for his new opportunity.

In addition to saying farewell to our K9 Officer, we have seen fewer needs for Diego’s specialized skills here in Estes Park than we anticipated. While that’s a good sign for our community, it means his training and skillset is underutilized. Since 2019, Diego has been deployed 89 times in Estes Park and in partner jurisdictions. The majority of these deployments have been for community educational events and demonstrations, and simple traffic sniffs. A small portion of his deployments have been for tracking, criminal apprehension, or building, evidence and narcotics searches – these high-level functions are his specialties by training. Of these deployments, many have taken Diego outside Estes Park to support partner agencies like Loveland and Greeley. 

You may wonder how this affects our staffing needs. Well, the K9 Officer’s time is divided between regular patrol and special K9 assignments. Plus, required training takes the Officer out of town with Diego, once or twice weekly. That means a lot less availability for day-to-day patrol here in Estes Park. Increasing coverage of patrol shifts is our highest priority. With that in mind, hiring a non-K9 Officer who can be dedicated to patrol will be a better use of our current resources. 

Estes Park will continue to be supported by neighboring partner agencies with any specialized resources we need, like K9s. EPPD can always consider resuming a K9 program in the future. In the meantime, I am dedicated in my search to find the right agency to fold Diego into its K9 programs, with a trained officer to complement his skills and personality. I want to thank all of you – our partners in community policing – for your continued support of our team. As your friends, neighbors and public servants, we simply couldn’t do it without you.

For more information on the EPPD, please visit www.estes.org/pd or contact Interim Chief of Police Corey Pass at cpass@estes.org