Police Department Hosts California State Parks for Exercises

It’s been a year and a half since PASO Magazine last featured a Paso PD K-9 article so it feels right to provide an update on our two formidable dog and handler teams. On a dreary day in January, I went to Ravine Water Park where a regional K-9 training session taking place.

Paso PD Officer Dan Hackett and David Ellis of CA State Parks with Aki before training session.

Sixteen dogs and handlers, mostly from the State Parks System, plus Paso patrol officers Dan Hackett with his dog, Ar-Mex, and Jeff DePetro with his dog, Ir, were the hosts for this training exercise. The sessions are regularly held across various places in the county as a form of collaborative training as well as camaraderie among these dedicated officers. Here’s a mini refresher:

Dogs who rise to the top of initial screening are sent to a facility up in Menlo Park for final training. This is also where they are paired up with their partner-handler before “going to work.” Each dog is an asset number in its organization and is owned by the agency where it works.

The dogs are not owned by their handlers but they live with them. Thus, if an officer retires or transfers to a different position or city, the dog stays behind or is sent back to Menlo Park to get a new handler. These dogs have been trained for a specific role and they are not the family dog. They also don’t become ‘office dogs’ that sit under a desk to become a staff pet.

Paso’s first K-9 units were begun in 1983. They soon become an invaluable resource to the Police Department. When the dogs arrive at the PD for their shift and they see their patrol car, they are ‘on the clock and on the job.’

Officer David Ellis with Aki, capture ‘the bad guy’ during a training session.

Almost always, Officers Jeff and Dan keep their dogs on-leash because usually, the bad guy is in a situation with other people around. The dog doesn’t know who the bad guy is. The officers want to make sure the dog gets the right person!

The intent is for the dog to be the enticer for the suspect to peacefully give up. That’s always the best outcome. If the bad-guy is known to have a weapon, that’s another reason to keep the dog on-leash.

These commands are often given in Chech or German since these were the first languages the dogs heard when they were pups — 16 big bruiser beasts with their handler-partners, all laying, sitting, heeling and standing at once is impressive.

At opposite ends of the water park, a simulated bad-guy dressed in a suit about a foot-thick of protective clothing, hid some place. As the leaders for the day’s event, Office DePetro was at one location and Officer Hackett was at another.

David Ellis and his dog, Aki, both with the State Parks Department, and I following along to observe, went toward Officer Hackett’s location. Officer Ellis was not told the suspect’s location so he could not guide his dog. It was the Aki’s time to work!

Officer Dan Hackett and his canine partner, Ar-Mex.

Officer Ellis shouted into the wind toward the direction where he suspected the bad-guy was, something to the effect of, “You are a suspect. Come out with your hands up or I will release the dog. You will be apprehended!” Then, the dog was turned loose.

Aki covered a rather large area and found his target. Fascinating! I watched as the dog darn near took the steel doors off of a storage container! When Officer Ellis caught up, he opened the doors and the dog lunged. Next thing I saw was the dog dragging out the culprit! He didn’t let go until
Office Ellis had control of the perp and commanded the dog to ‘release.’ Just like that, it was over!

Officers DePetro and Hackett report to Sargent Todd Rehner. The three have many years of service in the Paso PD. Crime in our city is real. The dogs get their share of trapping and catching villains.

From chases across fields to snag dug dealers, robberies at stores or businesses or situations in buildings, both of Paso’s K-9 units are trained and ready. Of course bad guys won’t read this article but if you happen to know one, maybe ask him or her, “Is it really worth it? Who in their right mind would want to temp the teeth and strength of these dogs?”