Lawmakers question fancy add-ons to K-9 patrol cars |

Lawmakers question fancy add-ons to K-9 patrol cars

Lawmakers Tuesday questioned nearly $72,000 in custom accessories added to the six patrol vehicles purchased for the Nevada Highway Patrol’s new K-9 units.

The accessories included thousands of dollars for custom mag wheels, low profile tires and high performance exhaust systems.

NHP Col. Chris Perry told the joint Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means subcommittee that when he found out about the pricey add-ons, he tried to stop them.

But he said the tricked-out Ford Expeditions had already been purchased. The K-9 program was started under the investigations unit of Public Safety then transferred to NHP.

“It was an expense we should not have made,” he said.

Altogether, the accessories added $71,853 to the cost of the vehicles.

The issue was raised during the initial review of NHP’s budget. Legislative Counsel Bureau fiscal analysts will monitor the program to ensure no further abuses occur.

Perry said after the meeting that the K-9 unit wanted to further upgrade the vehicles by souping up the engines, but he rejected that request.

None of the money came from the General Fund, Perry pointed out. All of the more than $500,000 spent so far on the K-9 program has come from non-General Fund sources, including forfeitures and donations by outside advocacy groups.

Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, said she fully supports the idea of the K-9 drug units. But she said there seems to be no end of problems associated with the dog program.

She pointed out that Public Safety accepted the donation of two dogs in December before getting legislative permission. And when Public Safety Director Jerry Hafen was asked what would happen to the animals if they weren’t accepted by the state, he drew protests by saying the dogs would be put to sleep. Perry assured her Tuesday those dogs have good homes and are being well cared for.

There also were objections to the amount of overtime run up by officers handling the dogs. Perry admitted the overtime got excessive during the training period.

“I’m the first to tell you we let it get out of hand,” he said. “It won’t happen again.”

The K-9 program was started late last year. There are now three working drug dogs in the Las Vegas area and two in Northern Nevada.

Since Dec. 2, those dogs have been responsible for seizing 154 pounds of marijuana, 7.3 pounds of ecstasy, 11 pounds of methamphetamine and more than a pound of cocaine.

Perry said plans are to add another three dog units in Winnemucca, Elko and the Pioche area.

– Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdor or 687-8750.