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By Thomas J. Sullivan–
The Citrus Heights Police Department’s four-legged K-9 partners have been a popular face of the force for the past decade and have played a vital role in apprehending criminals.
The Sentinel recently met with Sgt. Kane Kissam and several officers of CHPD’s K-9 unit to talk about the unit’s role in day-to-day police work in Citrus Heights. The unit is led by Sgt. Kissam and Lt. Jason Baldwin.
The department’s K-9 unit came to the forefront of media attention this summer, when Axel, one of CHPD’s K-9 dogs, was believed to have been shot by a suspect during a chase on Greenback Lane near Sunrise Mall on July 9.
The K-9 was released by officers and made contact with the shooter, who fired at least twice at the dog’s head at point-blank range, leading police to believe he had been shot, according to a news release at the time.
The Citrus Heights police K-9 was originally believed to have been shot in the face, but was not actually hit by gunfire, just covered in the shooter’s blood. The dog’s handling officer, Kyle Shoberg, was also shot through his uniform but was uninjured.
Police said Axel received a period of rest and relaxation before returning to full duty. His handler recently received the American Legion Post 637 “Police Officer of the Year” award for exemplary service.
Four police dogs are on regular duty in Citrus Heights, with the dogs all ranging between three and four years in age.
Their work expectancy before retirement is between 8 and 10 years. On average, the cost to purchase, train and provide veterinary care for a police dog on duty entering duty can cost more than $20,000, Kissam said.
Officers Kyle Shoberg, Nathan Culver, Todd Ross, and Joe Davis have volunteered for special assignment K-9 duty. Their partners are Axel, Jack, Blitz and Flint-Rex.
A plaque outside police headquarters honors the memory of five former police dogs: Eger (2004-10), Yari (2004-17), Zeus (2008-18), Yosh, (2004-14) and Bruno (2007-18).
Farley the narcotics dog
Additionally, Farley, the department’s narcotics dog, an outgoing black lab, celebrated a birthday recently. He starred in a Facebook photo shoot this summer, reminding residents to keep children and pets out of hot cars.
Farley has unearthed 47 pounds of marijuana, 29 grams of methamphetamine, 29 grams of heroin and 11 grams of cocaine since joining the force in November 2018. Farley and his partner, Detective Dave Moranz, are also assigned to the Narcotic and Economic Crimes Investigation Task Force for the United States Postal Inspection Service, in Sacramento.
“Farley doesn’t know he’s a drug dog,” said Moranz. “Farley just thinks he’s playing. He has no idea what he does for a job and what he does for our community and the police department in combating people in the illegal possession of controlled substances. He has no clue. As far as he cares, I think he thinks he’s a dog, and he gets to play all the time.”
Police dog training
All dogs used by the Citrus Heights Police Department go through a battery of tests and hundreds of hours of training before being certified for use in the Patrol Services Division, said Kissam.
The canines and handlers also participate in intensive on-going training to maintain and enhance their skills. Each canine is cross-trained in criminal apprehension and narcotics detection.
“We supplement patrol units as cover units,” said Officer Culver. “We’re on call for whatever an incident may require.” Two K-9 units are assigned to the late-night graveyard shift and another is generally assigned to the general task force.
“We’re constantly training with multiple police agencies throughout the region at least twice a month. tough and realistic certification for today’s K-9 teams,” Culver said.
In August, at the Vallejo Police Department K-9 Trials, Officer Culver and K-9 Jack placed first in patrol protection phase, fourth place overall, and received the Decoys Choice Award. Officer Moranz and Farley placed third in building narcotic search phase and fifth place overall in the narcotics detection division.
Do K-9 dogs wear bulletproof vests?
Sgt. Kissam told The Sentinel a common question from the public is why police dogs don’t wear bulletproof vests on a regular basis, but he noted vests also come with downsides.
“The weight of a 10-pound vest is a real factor and with a heavy coat of fur, in high heat, or being in a police vehicle for a prolonged period of time,” the sergeant said. “It places a considerable [amount] of stress on the animal.”
“I hope the public also understands that we often face rapidly changing tactical situations where it’s not always practical to put them on before we respond,” Kissam said.
K-9’s in the field
Statistically, CHPD had deployed its police dogs in 157 situations this year leading to 10 apprehensions and 25 suspect surrenders. Some 60 pounds of illicit narcotics of all types were seized.
Inter-police agency calls are common, with Citrus Heights police K-9 units in the field day and night, ready to respond.
“When another police agency needs K-9 support, we’re right there,” said Officer Shoberg.
It’s also a matter of placing paws before boots.
“The sound of a police dog barking is a huge deterrent to some of our suspects, said Kissam. “They also can search much farther and faster than we can on two legs.”
There’s also a level of unspoken language of love and camaraderie between each police dog in the Citrus Heights Police Department and their individual K-9 handler.
“They also become an important part of our own families,” said Officer Davis. “It’s a 24-hour responsibility we have to care for them, to make sure they’re well-fed, rested and hydrated and ready for duty each, and every day.”
“They’re our partners on patrol and together we make a great team.”
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