Rome Police Disbanding K9 Unit, Jobs to be Cut in January
The jobs of at least two members of the Rome Police Department are being eliminated in January 2022.
Effective New Year's Day, K9 officers Arko and Spock will no longer serve the Rome PD.
Lieutenant Sharon L. Rood says that funding is one the reasons for the cuts but is not the main issue. She says that the State of New York's changing drug laws regarding marijuana use will render the dogs unusable in most investigations.
In March 2021 then-Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation legalizing recreational use of marijuana for most adults. As of April 1, 2021, it is now legal to possess up to three ounces of cannabis. The dogs are trained to detect marijuana in any amount and do not distinguish between "legal" and "illegal" quantities. Consequently, potential charges relating to any illegal drugs found could not be filed if those drugs were found as a result of an indiscriminate - and possibly legal - amount of marijuana detected by the dogs.
To further complicate matters, as the number of places being approved to sell cannabis increases, it is possible for more people to have detectable levels of marijuana on their clothing. Previously a positive marijuana indication by the dogs would constitute probable cause for the search of an individual. That is no longer the case and, because of the new laws, the use of the dogs in a criminal search could actually jeopardize future prosecutorial action.
Lt. Rood says this does not mean that K9 units will not be re-employed in the future in other capacities. Arko and Spock, however, would not be utilized since their training is specific to marijuana detection.
What will happen to Arko and Spock? Lt. Rood says that their handlers are interested in keeping them and will be given the opportunity to purchase them from the city.
Lt. Rood acknowledges that dogs are very popular members of the Rome Police Department. She says that the decision to dismiss the dogs was not an easy one for Chief Kevin Beach.