The Latah County Sheriff’s department requested a modest increase to its capital budget in a meeting with county commissioners Friday with about a quarter of that used to acquire a drug-sniffing dog, long on the department’s wish list.

The budget presented Friday by Sheriff Richie Skiles and Chief Deputy Tim Besst did not include personnel costs or salary increases. Besst said the request, which covers operating and capital expenses, represents an increase of more than $105,000.

Besst said $27,000 of that would go toward starting a drug dog program, which would support the purchase of the dog and other costs associated with care and training. Besst said the sheriff’s office would want a “three-scent” dog trained to detect cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine but not cannabis.

Skiles said he believes this is the fifth consecutive year his office has requested permission to obtain a drug dog.

While Besst said he is personally a proponent of a “four-scent” dog that would also be able to detect cannabis. However, he said the sheriff’s office has encountered resistance to the purchase of a four-scent dog in the past and with the county so close to the Washington border where recreational cannabis is legal, they are more focused on catching hard drugs.

Commissioner Dave McGraw said he also favors a four-scent dog.

“Marijuana is still illegal in Idaho, I think it should be a four-scent, but if we’ve got to go with a three-scent to get it through, then three scents, I guess, is a selling point,” McGraw said. “(Moscow Police) Chief Fry has said many times, ‘marijuana is illegal in Idaho whether you like it or not.’”

Besst said they also will request permission to hire a new deputy to manage the canine program. He said part of the reason for this request is, according to the International City/County Management Association and others, they should have about 2.5 officers or deputies for every 1,000 residents. Latah County has close to 14,700 residents, Besst said, which means ideally, they would have 36 deputies assigned to patrol. They have 19.

While Friday’s budget request does not include the cost of paying the new deputy, Besst said salary and benefits for the position would cost about $70,000 and they would also need an additional $10,000 to cover the necessary overtime.

“It’s expensive but if we can’t get a deputy with a canine it’s going to be really hard for us to manage the canine program,” he said.

Also included in Friday’s budget request was a $31,000 increase to the office’s capital vehicles budget.

Besst said in particular, the sheriff’s office is hoping to begin replacement of 15-year-old mobile radios with newer models which will cost around $4,500 apiece.

“Then on top of that we’re requesting an extra $50,000 to replace one of our detective vehicles,” Besst said. “We need to replace a 20-year-old, three-quarter-bed pickup — it’s a 2001 Ford F150 — it does its job but it’s going to misfire soon.”

With a budget of more than $4.5 million annually, the sheriff’s department comprises about a quarter of the county’s overall budget.

Latah County Commissioners will meet to finalize and approve budgets Wednesday, Aug. 25.

Jackson can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to

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