Police Mount Unit Eyed In Salisbury

OCEAN CITY – The Salisbury Police Department (SPD) has partnered up with the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore to provide donation lines on behalf of scholarships for Wicomico County students, as well as resources to re-establish and sustain the department’s K-9 and Mount units.

SPD Chief Barbara Duncan approached the City Council last Monday to discuss the two possible donation systems and the council wasted no time as it voted unanimously to approve the resolutions creating the scholarship program and means to fund the K-9 and Mount Unit earlier this week.

The police department approached the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore to establish an endowment fund in which contributions can be made to support the scholarship program. The Future Officer Recruits College Education School Program targets “non-traditional” or minorities to provide an incentive to join the SPD.

“Minority recruitment has not changed in the last few years,” Duncan said this week.

The program’s mission is to more effectively serve the community with a police force reflective of its citizens through partnerships offering scholarships to students who are committed to serving the City of Salisbury as a member of the police department and a productive member of the community.

Duncan explained the police department has developed the mechanism to reach out to the city’s younger population, “Partner with them through the college years and give them an avenue to become police officers for Salisbury City.”

The scholarship program will need the support of the community in order to succeed. The business community and faith-based organizations within Salisbury will be the foundation of the program. Wor-Wic Community College will serve as the program’s higher education partner through its Criminal Justice Program and the Community Foundation will partner with the SPD to assure full responsibility for financial donations and accountability reporting, assuring “clean hands” process for the program.

Students benefit in many ways including a full two-year Criminal Justice scholarship at Wor-Wic and employment with SPD upon college graduation.

“The candidate is going to come out of this with their Associate’s Degree,” Duncan said.  “We will be walking them through the entire process. We will be there for them.”

Community partners benefit through serving an active role in improving the business neighborhood and being part of the solution addressing the needs of the community. The City of Salisbury benefits by having a police force reflective of its citizens, sustainability of the police department from within the community, and a positive community image addressing the needs of youth while deterring crime and gang activity.

“Setting clear expectations and strong expectations children will rise to the occasion,” Council President Terry Cohen said. “I think too often we fail to recognize how much children want to rise to meet expectations.”

The SPD has recently re-established it K-9 Unit and the immediate goal is to set up a donation line to financially support the valuable law enforcement resource outside of city funding. The K-9 Unit is used to assist with searches, narcotics detection, back up for patrol, and investigate units and to further community awareness and support.

The total basic startup cost is an estimated $54,000 per K-9 team. The estimate includes the purchase of a K-9 for each of the four patrol squads, four weeks of a handler course, additional shelter, food, vet bills, equipment, K-9 vehicles, as well as an eventual purchase of a blood hound for tracking.

The SPD is also looking to re-establish the Mount Unit. An immediate donation line will financially support the startup of the undertaking, as well as financially sustain the unit outside of city funding. The Mount Unit is to see and to be seen for the purpose of community engagement, crime prevention and detection.

The department hopes to initially start with two horses and four riders and eventually work its way up to four horses and eight riders. The Mount Unit’s objectives include neighborhood and street patrol deployment in university and residential neighborhoods, retail districts, the City Park, and downtown. The unit’s use also includes special events, sporting events, parades, crowd control, Holiday patrol, search and rescue missions, police funeral detail, and planned or unplanned civil disturbances.

“Without a doubt, it [Mount Unit] is part of a healthy city,” Duncan said. “We know very well how expensive both of these propositions are. However, the commitment to bringing these important law enforcement tools back to the City of Salisbury is a huge undertaking and I know that municipally we simply can’t afford it so we are depending very much on what the community can do for us.”

Vice President Deborah Campbell offered to make “a drop in the bucket,” and added, “I saw a huge difference that this made in the community and I am thrilled that you’re working to bring it back.”