By Katta Hules
The K-9 program is back in the Arcadia Police Department. Though police dog Zoli has only been on the job for a month, Sergeant John Bonomo, Supervisor of the program says other officers are “glad to have him on the force.”
The original Arcadia PD K-9 program was previously in place for many years before being discontinued in the mid-2000s “for several reasons, including a staffing issue,” says Bonomo. The department no longer faces a staffing shortage. Recently, the PD came together and discussed new programs they could implement to benefit the safety of their officers and serve the community. The K-9 unit was brought up.
“From a safety perspective, there are several jobs the K-9 can do (such as searching a building and alerting [us to] someone hiding) that would traditionally require a police officer to come face to face with (danger),” says Bonomo. Sending the dog in first allows officers to be better prepared for what they might face. “The K-9… can be used, when appropriate, to decrease or better prepare for resolving potentially dangerous or violent encounters.”
When the program was approved for reintroduction, the department needed a supervisor to ensure the handler and dog were well-equipped and properly trained. “I felt my experience and tenure with our department would be a benefit to the program and I wanted to be a part of it,” Bonomo says. He threw his hat in the ring and got the position.
Next, the department recruited Zoli, a half German Shepherd, half Belgian Malinois mix from Slovakia. He was schooled at a local K-9 training facility. His handler, Arcadia Police Officer Joshua Foulks, trained with him for five weeks before they joined the department in November. Just under two years old, Zoli is versed in apprehension (ie. grabbing and holding violent suspects) and scent detection of certain narcotics. Already, he has been sent many times to search homes and businesses that have been broken into for potential suspects hiding inside.
Zoli and Foulks are a permanent team. Foulks feeds, grooms, trains and houses Zoli. “When Foulks is on-duty, so is the K-9. When their shift ends, they go home together and rest. On their off-duty days, Foulks and Zoli are often training on the skills they’ve developed together, such as obedience, and response to commands and alerts,” says Bonomo. “Training for a K-9 is paramount to its success.”
Due to his training Zoli is constantly monitoring Foulks to know how to act when encountering people. “Zoli is alert to what is happening around him and needs to be assured by Foulks that anyone near him is not a threat,” Bonomo says. Should you encounter Zoli and Foulks out in the community, greet Foulks from a distance. Should you like to say hello to Zoli, Foulks will let you know if you can come closer and do so. “If Zoli has had a long night and is tired, it might not be the right time to interact with him. Just listen to the officer and he’ll let you know if you can pat Zoli on the head and say thank you for serving.”
In addition to Zoli, the police are hoping to get another K-9 unit in the near future. “Police work is a 24/7 operation, which limits how much time our one K-9 can be here to serve the needs of our officers and community. Having two K-9 units allows us to have a dog on-duty during the day as well as at night,” Bonomo says. However, starting the program was a “time-consuming process and a new experience for most of us involved, so we are moving at a pace that gives us the opportunity to make sure we are doing everything right.”
The cost of implementing and maintaining the unit is high. The original funding came from the Arcadia Police Foundation, “an independent, community-based non-profit organization that benefits the Arcadia Police Department by providing financial support and by promoting community-police partnership,” according to Bonomo. It was founded last year, the K-9 unit is its first major initiative.
The foundation hopes to provide the PD with the second unit as well and fundraising efforts are underway. “Any support from our community would be greatly appreciated, as every part of the K-9, from on-going training to veterinary care and daily food are supported through donations,” says Bonomo. Residents who wish to donate or volunteer can contact the Foundation by calling (626) 574-5185 or by email at ArcadiaPoliceFoundation@ArcadiaCA.gov.