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Budget cuts could send K9 into retirement

A portrait Grimm German shepherd who served as Buffalo Grove Police Department's first canine hangs wall retired officers' near department's

A portrait of Grimm, the German shepherd who served as the Buffalo Grove Police Department's first canine hangs on the wall of retired officers' near the department's administrative offices. | Ronnie Wachter~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 7, 2013 4:56PM

Buffalo Grove trustees are discussing a number of village services that may need to be removed from the 2014 budget to offset deficits in the capital reserve fund.

One of the proposed budget cuts — eliminating the Police Department’s canine program — would save the village about $37,000. That’s the amount the department spent last year on Saxon, its 3-year-old German shepherd.

“By the dog hitting on the smell of a controlled substance inside a car, it saves us the time having to tear the car up looking for it,” said Cmdr. Steve Newton, Buffalo Grove police spokesman. “If we had to rely on other towns’ canines, and if there was nothing available for one of our calls, then we’d have to deal with it, no different than anything else.”

At the July 29 Village Board meeting, trustees discussed a number of cost-saving options.

Trustees were asked to balance the village’s financial pressures against public safety, but police officials in surrounding communities all expressed hope that Buffalo Grove will keep its dog.

Several smaller communities with no canine program borrow Saxon from time to time, and without him, those departments would all have to turn to agencies who still have dogs.

“When the need arises, it is a benefit for us that other agencies in the area can make one available,” wrote Bruce Dayno, Riverwoods’ chief of police, in an email.

Newton, Dayno and Kildeer police chief Steve Balinski, who previously led the Buffalo Grove department, explained that the canine unit plays numerous roles: sniffing out drugs in a car, tracking a missing or wanted person’s scent, sniffing for a suspect or an object in a building, adding to officer safety and chasing someone down.

Newton added that some dogs also are used for community relations, touring schools and fairs.

Village records show that in 2012, Saxon worked 31 calls in the village and 51 for neighboring departments. He lives with his handler, officer Danielle Baron.

Buffalo Grove keeps Saxon away from crowds, however.

“Having too much interaction with the public defeats the purpose of having the dog trained the way it is trained,” Newton said.

Saxon, named after a band of Middle Age conquerors from what is now Germany, is the third generation of Buffalo Grove’s program. His predecessors, Grimm and Reaper, served eight and two years respectively with officers Dean Schulz and Tim Gretz, and lived with their handlers after retirement.

Saxon has already served for two years with Baron. Should Saxon find himself unemployed, he would likely still live with Baron, Newton said.

Police dogs are regarded as officers and partners in Buffalo Grove. On a wall by the department’s administrative offices, portraits of each of its retirees hang, including one of Grimm.

If Buffalo Grove eliminates its use of Saxon, the village would likely call in canine help from Lake and Cook County deputies.

The trustees will consider the possible cuts again in September. The village budget isn’t finalized until the end of the year.

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