Less than a week ago, Sgt. Melinda Ruopp made three drug arrests in one night. She took 15 grams of marijuana off the street. And she said she owes it all to her partner - K-9 partner Awol.
"That might not seem like a lot," she said. "But where was that going? Was it going to fall into the hands of a teenager? I think it is a win every time we take drugs off the street. That's 15 grams of marijuana that isn't going into someone's body."
With the recent retirement of Marshalltown Police Department K-9 officer Creasy and the ailing health of Awol, the MPD has begun efforts to raise money to replace the dogs.
The Marshalltown Police Department has begun fundraising efforts to replace K-9 officer Awol, shown here in April 2009. Awol and the MPD’s other dog, Creasy, have both had recent health ailments that necessitate the department raising $60,000 both to replace the dogs and purchase new K-9 equipped cruisers.
Marshalltown Police Chief Mike Tupper said the MPD is looking to raise $60,000 to replace Creasy, who was struck suddenly by an embolism earlier this year that left him unable to perform police dog duties, and, when the time comes, Awol, who has a degenerative muscle disease that will eventually make him unfit for police work.
"Our police service dog program has been very valuable tool for the police department locally," Tupper said. "We want to maintain that current level of service."
The total also includes money to purchase new K-9 cruisers, which need to be fitted with special cages, remote door openers and other special equipment like a "hot dogger." The device alerts handlers to when the car reaches a certain temperature so their dogs don't die from the heat.
Ruopp, who is now on her second K-9 partner, said without community support she would not have a second dog. Regularly talking with other K-9 handlers, who say they have trouble drumming up public support, has made her grateful she lives in a community that appreciates the importance of having a K-9 unit available.
She said she would feel guilty asking for contributions to purchase new dogs and vehicles if she didn't know how essential these dogs are to the MPD's work. A K-9 dog's nose is an invaluable tool to a police department - it can locate everything from drugs to missing persons to explosive devices, she said.
Ruopp said Awol's nose often makes the difference between police finding something and it going undiscovered.
"Every day there are little wins that people don't know about," she said. "Every little piece can make a difference."
Although Awol's condition has proved to be less detrimental than vets predicted, it will eventually overtake him, making him unfit for police work.
With the promotion of Kiel Stevenson, Creasy's handler, to Sergeant, the MPD is looking to train another officer at the St. Paul Police Department Training Center in Minnesota to handle the department's prospective dog.
Tupper said in order to do that the department needs to raise $20,000 of the $60,000 by February. The good news, he said, is that the MPD has already raised $5,000. However, should Awol need medical treatment before February, that money would have to go to cover his veterinary costs.
Anyone interested in contributing to the MPD's K-9 fundraiser can send checks made out to the Marshalltown Police Department, 22 N. Center St. Write "K-9 fund" in the memo line.