LINCOLN CITY — Lincoln City Police Department Officer Molly Wehrley is going to be the human face of the of the law enforcement entity’s K-9 unit when it comes to fruition in the near future.
In January 2019, the LCPD announced the establishment of the beginnings of a K-9 officer program and a fundraising effort to raise start-up costs of $75,000.
“Police departments around the state are expanding with K-9 police programs because they recognize the value they bring to their departments, along with the added safety they bring to their communities,” read an initial Lincoln City police news release announcing the K-9 program. “It is the goal of our K-9 unit to help prevent crime, keep the community safe and add tremendous value to the Lincoln City Police Department.”
In slightly more than a year, the K-9 unit reached its goal of $75,000 in donations, and, according to lincolncityk9.com, is using the money to “cover the costs of the K-9 handler courses and certifications, as well as necessary equipment for the dog, such as ballistic K-9 vests, vehicle insert designed for transport of a police dog and the construction of a kennel for the K-9’s housing.”
“The response from the community has been absolutely phenomenal in how they’ve supported this getting off the ground,” Sgt. Jeff Winn told the News-Times this week. “For us to be involved in a community like this is just incredible, and we’re truly grateful for our support from the city council and from police department administration.”
Earlier this month, Lincoln City Police announced Wehrley was the department’s selection for the K-9’s handler. She was selected over two other LCDP applicants during a process that included both written and oral presentations given by the applicants.
Along with Sgt. Randy Weaver, Wehrley will travel next month to southern California, where they will select the department’s dog, then complete a weeklong introductory training program.
Once they’ve returned from California, Wehrley and the department’s K-9 will work with a trainer for about six weeks as the department’s new K-9 team works to achieve state certification. Winn told the News-Times the department hopes Wehrley and the dog will be ready to go by early next year.
“We’ve had an excellent partnership with the Newport Police Department and the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office in the use of their K-9s,” Winn said. “When we’ve needed them, they’ve been really good about coming up here and helping us, but often that takes a good deal of time. For us to have our own dog can really speed things up in situations where the timeframe is pressing.”
Winn added that having a dog on the force that can track suspects or search for missing persons will be a significant benefit to the department.
Wehrley is a former LCPD evidence clerk who joined the department as an officer in 2018 and earned the Lee M. Brown Award for academic achievement by the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training after graduating from the training academy at the top of her class.
Winn said the department is still accepting donations for the K-9 program and hopes to see the unit expand in the near future.
“Donations we’re receiving now are going to be used for the care and maintenance of the dog and for the program’s general needs,” he said. “Our goal once it’s up and running is that we have some success, and we’re able to grow it and get another dog.”