Erving Police Department looks to revive K-9 program

  • Erving Police Chief Robert Holst, pictured outside the Erving Police Station. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Clarence, the Greenfield Police Department’s late comfort dog, leads the Franklin County Fair parade in 2018. With the Erving Selectboard showing its support this week, the Erving Police Department plans to look internally to revive its K-9 program. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 10/5/2022 6:00:49 PM
Modified: 10/5/2022 5:56:32 PM

ERVING — With the Selectboard showing its support this week, the Police Department plans to look internally to revive its K-9 program.

Police Chief Robert Holst, who ran the K-9 program between 2012 and 2014, said he has wanted to revive the program since it was ended eight years ago. He said he now has an officer in mind within his department who may be interested and equipped to take on the responsibility. Should an officer be up to the task, the associated dog would be a bloodhound that could serve both tracking and comfort purposes, Holst said.

Holst explained he began organizing Erving’s K-9 program in 2011 and was forced to end it in 2014 due to the weight of new responsibilities he took on following his promotion to sergeant. During this period, “outreach to the community was tremendous,” he said. The department’s dog, a bloodhound named Badge, proved its worth and elicited an “outpour” of appreciation from the public, he continued.

“He had such a drive and he was only a couple years old,” Holst said of Badge.

Selectboard Chair Jacob Smith also noted the impact of comfort dogs such as Clarence, Greenfield’s late Saint Bernard who had worked with those affected by tragedies such as the Sandy Hook shooting and Boston Marathon bombing.

“It’s good for the town and the community and being able to reach out to other communities,” Selectboard member William Bembury said of having a K-9 in the department.

The officer who takes up the K-9 role would be tasked with four weekly overtime hours designated for training. Holst also noted that merely caring for a puppy is a hefty responsibility in itself.

“I understand firsthand what it takes, the training that we’ll be needing and the certifications it requires,” Holst said, acknowledging that it “takes a special officer” to do the job of a K-9 handler.

While Holst did not name the officer he had in mind, newly hired Officer Laura Gordon brings years of related experience to the Erving Police Department. Prior to joining Erving’s force as a full-time patrol officer in July, she led the Greenfield Police Department’s comfort dog program.

The total cost of the K-9, suitable living conditions and properly outfitting a cruiser is expected to be around $13,600, according to a summary written by Holst. Holst said he will seek funding from various grant sources to maximize financial feasibility for Erving.

Holst will soon look to conduct interviews within his department to fill the role. He said he has been in touch with two K-9 handlers in the area, who he might ask to assist with interviewing the officers “if there’s a number of officers that are interested in it.”

Regardless of how many officers are interested in taking up the role of handler, Holst said “there is support from the department” to revive the K-9 program. Selectboard members echoed their support.

“I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t move forward with it,” Selectboard member Scott Bastarache said.

“We’re endorsing it,” Smith said.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.


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