After careful consideration, the City of Battle Ground announces the suspension of the Battle Ground Police Department’s (BGPD) Canine (K9) program, effective March 1, 2023.
A multitude of factors contributed to this policy decision, including a thorough evaluation of current and future staffing needs, a review of K9 deployment statistics within City limits, and considering recent police reform laws.
Staffing Needs – Consistent with the City’s Guiding Principles, public safety tops the list of priorities for BGPD. Police officers are the primary resource BGPD relies upon to achieve this priority, and despite ongoing recruitment efforts, BGPD continues to experience a shortage of patrol officers. This challenge is not unique to our community, as law enforcement agencies across the nation report a significant reduction in the number of applicants. In addition, the extensive pre-employment evaluation process necessary to identify qualified officer candidates often results in disqualification or withdrawal, further reducing the pool of potential officers.
In light of these staffing limitations, BGPD patrol officers often work additional shifts. “I want our officers to be safe, and to have the capacity to continue to devote significant time to 911 and 311 calls,” said Chief Mike Fort. “To that end, the reassignment of the K9 officer to patrol will help the Department better meet the needs of our community.”
K9 Deployment within City Limits – Approximately 80% of all Battle Ground K9 Unit deployments that occurred in 2022, took place outside of Battle Ground. This is an important factor contributing to the policy decision, particularly in consideration of BGPD’s need to allocate limited resources to meet its obligations to our residents, businesses, and visitors.
BGPD is fortunate to have strong regional partnerships that provide mutual aid law enforcement assistance. These partnerships are particularly important among smaller agencies that can share resources, including K9 services, from time-to-time as needs dictate.
Changes in Policing – The police reform laws that swept the nation in 2021 have changed many aspects of policing in the State of Washington. Legislators and voters have made it clear that policing, particularly as it relates to the use of force, must be thoughtful and forward-thinking. These goals are shared by BGPD.
“To me, this means rethinking some tools of traditional policing, including the use of K9s,” said Chief Fort. “Although the K9 is a valuable resource in some cases, I believe there are perhaps other methods such as technology and training that offer better paths forward for our department.”
The Battle Ground Police Department remains committed to providing quality law enforcement service through techniques that emphasize sound tactics and advancements in service methods, while still remaining fiscally responsible to our taxpayers. To learn more about this and other Battle Ground Police Department policies and programs, please visit us online at www.cityofbg.org.