The Montebello Police Department was one of the "First Generation" K-9 programs in the Southern California area. This program was started in the fall of 1981 through private donations. A local car dealer donated two police cars, and two K-9s were purchased with donated money. Other civic organizations pitched in to get the program started.
The Montebello Police K-9 Services Unit had an extremely successful beginning and continued to gain popularity and community support. Ultimately, the city funded the entire unit. Community support increased, and after seeing how K-9s were indeed an officer/citizen safety factor, a crime reduction factor, and cost savings to the city, the city authorized two more K-9 positions. The unit now totaled four fully operational K-9 teams assigned to a centralized unit within the Field Services unit.
The Montebello Police K-9 Services Unit was the "Flagship" of all K-9 units in the San Gabriel Valley and Southeast Los Angeles area, with many agencies attempting to replicate our program.
The Montebello Police K-9 Services Unit continued with great success until the city suffered a financial crisis in the summer of 1997. During that time, many specialized teams, including the K-9 Services Unit, were disbanded, and the remaining active service dogs retired to their respective handlers.
Sergeant Higashi contacted numerous members of the business community, and received large donations within a short period. The two K-9 units that remained in the fleet of police cars were sent to a local car dealer who donated the parts and labor to refurbish the vehicles.
With funding and equipment in place, testing of personnel was conducted to select the handlers. New selection and testing protocols were used to evaluate the applicant’s suitability, aptitude, and abilities in handling K-9s. An oral examination, a practical field-test, along with staff input and evaluation were part of the selection process.
Fifteen applicants filed interest memos to Sergeant Higashi for the two K-9 officer positions. One of the stipulations for reinstating the K-9 Services Unit was the assignment of the K-9 teams to patrol beats rather than to a centralized unit as in the past. With that in mind, nine officers concluded the testing. Corporal Rick Money and Corporal Mike Bergman excelled in the testing process and were selected as the unit's "Second Generation" handlers.
The two dogs purchased with donated money were tested and paired with the handlers. Evaluations of the dogs' demeanors, drives, maturity, and abilities were used in matching the dogs to the handlers that would be assigned to them. To best suit the department's needs and to ensure the success of each team, K-9 "Ares" was assigned to Corporal Money and K-9 "Rudi" assigned to Corporal Bergman.
To minimize the expense to the city, the Montebello K-9 Officers Association was formed to support the Montebello Police K-9 Services Unit. The association is a tax-exempt corporation; community members can donate money to purchase or replace K-9s and equipment. The Nutro Dog Food Company, located in the City of Industry, is donating food, and a local Vet is donating Veterinary services.
In January 2000, both dog teams attended a six-week basic K-9 handlers class at Adlerhorst International in Riverside, California, successfully graduating in March 2000. Both K-9 teams are operational and assigned to patrol teams. It is anticipated that the K-9 Services unit will eventually be back up to full compliment in the future, with the city ultimately funding the unit again.
This unit is currently under command of a Lieutenant and Supervised by a Sergeant, both former K-9 handlers. Currently there are two K-9 dogs assigned to patrol.
The K-9’s are trained to protect the handler and other officers. The dogs often search buildings, buildings, fields, backyards, etc. for fleeing or hiding suspects who are often armed and dangerous. The dogs are also cross-trained in narcotic detection and article searches.
The Montebello Police K9 Services Unit has continually been a winning team for others to emulate having competed in several regional K9 competitions and winning numerous trophies, from 4th place to 1st place. Although those competitions often boast as many as 50 competing teams from agencies across California, Montebello K-9 Services Unit has continually maintained its reputation as the team to beat.