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Glendale Police to Establish Canine Unit

Times Staff Writer

Glendale is hiring new police officers -- but only those with four legs.

The City Council last week authorized the Police Department to purchase four dogs for the city’s inaugural canine division. Officials hope that the purchase of two dogs in September and two more at a later date will help police take a bite out of crime and assist in everyday law enforcement.

It has taken the city more than two years to obtain the funding.

Glendale has frequently used canines borrowed from neighboring police forces for law enforcement, most recently Wednesday after a bank robbery near an elementary school.

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“Canines have become an everyday tool in law enforcement, because they have an amazing sense of smell and can search and clear an area in a quicker and safer fashion without tying up the staff for a long period of time,” said Police Capt. Randy Adams, who pushed for a canine unit in Glendale. Dogs also can alert officers to danger, he added.

Glendale will purchase the first two dogs by Labor Day, and they will begin their monthlong training with officers in September. Each dog will receive patrol training and will be equipped to find suspects on the run, said Capt. Mark Distaso, who is in charge of field services and will head the canine team. In addition, the first dog acquired will be trained to find explosives, and the second will be trained to detect narcotics, he said.

Officers partnered with the dogs will work their usual beats with the animals in tow. They will be dispatched together and will also visit schools for educational demonstrations, Adams said.

Love of dogs rather than experience was cited as the main criterion for selecting the officers to be paired with the animals. “They have to be willing to take the dog into their home, build them a kennel and have the dog become a member of their family,” Adams said.

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A panel will also help match the handler’s personality and the dog’s. Many handlers adopt their dog after the animal’s five- to seven-year career ends.

Each dog will cost the city more than $10,000 to buy and $3,000 a year to maintain. The program will be paid for with federal Homeland Security grants totaling $161,000, with donations and through fundraisers. “Communities where dogs are used,” Adams said, “love them and support them.” Glendale will also equip several police cars with cages on platforms and temperature control.

“Special equipment keep the vehicles at a comfortable, controlled and constant environment,” Distaso said. “The handler will allow the dogs out of the car on a frequent basis so that that dog can get exercise.”

Glendale will purchase dogs from Inglis Police Dog Academy in Oxnard. The academy is run by David Inglis, a retired Ventura Police Department canine handler, and his wife, Debbie.

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The academy, which is charged with training dogs and their handlers, plans to purchase Glendale’s first two canines, German shepherds from Germany, for about $6,000 each.

Inglis supplements the dogs’ training once they have been brought to the United States. For example, in Germany, police dogs are put in the police vehicle’s trunk, which is equipped with air and cooling systems. The dogs must be retrained to sit in an American police car’s interior, Inglis said.

Often, handlers require most of the training. “Many handlers know nothing about dogs. They just don’t have a clue,” Inglis said. “It takes repetition until they have it down.”

Glendale currently borrows canines from neighboring police departments, including Burbank, Los Angeles and Pasadena, Adams said.

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The LAPD’s Metropolitan Division, which has 20 dogs and 16 handlers, assists Glendale about six times a year, said Los Angeles Police Lt. Steve Zipperman.

Glendale also receives assistance from the LAPD’s bomb squad, which has four dogs, and the Narcotics Division, which has about a dozen, he said.

Los Angeles sent four dogs to Glendale on Wednesday to track the bandit who robbed the Bank of Orange County near Columbus Elementary School, which had to be locked down.

According to Glendale Public Relations Officer Sherri Servillo, the armed robber was not found, but police, with canine assistance, did recover items and money.

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Requesting dogs from outside cities means being subject to the constraints of other police departments. Glendale has to acquiesce to the other cities’ needs, Adams said.

Those outside agencies also decide whether Glendale’s situation warrants a canine force.

“We look at the type of crime, the type of resources that we have available and the type of public safety concern that the incident raises,” Zipperman said.


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