This article was originally published August 19, 2013 at 10:02 PM. It has since been updated.
San Rafael Police Department officials and San Rafael community members celebrated the formal reinstatement of the police's K-9 Division at a ceremony Monday night during a San Rafael City Council meeting.
At the formal swearing in, one of the departments’ two German Shepherds, Faro, decided he wanted to have a say in the event, too. During the "repeat after me" section between the officers who handle the dogs and San Rafael City Clerk Esther Beirne, Faro — who was obediently sitting still next to his handler — interrupted the ceremony with his howls. Laughter erupted in the packed council chambers and it seemed nearly everyone in the room had a smile on their face. Hear him sing during the ceremony in the above video.
Before the ceremony, the dogs, Ares and Faro, and their respective handlers, Corporal Michael Byers and Officer Christian Diaz, spent some time in front of City Hall talking to a small crowd of media. They also had a fitting for their bulletproof vests with Milpitas resident Louise Tully, the vice president of the Police and Working K-9 Foundations, which provides free supplies to police service dogs throughout the Bay Area.
The police department's original K-9 division was cut in 2003 due to budget cuts. The revival of the department’s K-9 program started in 2012 with formation of the San Rafael Police K-9 Association, which funds the program entirely via donations. Contributions have included the purchase of the dogs as well as their training and equipment.
The San Rafael Police Department's K-9 Unit is now the second K-9 division in Marin. Before, when any other Marin agency needed police dogs — whether it was to help find a person or suspected criminal or to aid with a drug bust — officers would have to wait, at times for hours, for the Novato department to bring their dogs.
Byers said the dogs have been specifically trained to find narcotics and to apprehend criminals. They will freeze if they smell narcotics and are rewarded by getting to play with their chew toys. The dogs can also usually track down money, because most money in circulation has touched narcotics and the smell has been transferred, Byers said. The dogs can also be used for a multitude of other purposes, including finding a lost person. Hear him talk about the dogs in the above video.
Ares and Faro started patrolling San Rafael’s streets on
San Rafael Police Lieutenant Dan Fink said the department uses the dogs every day.
The Sean M. Walsh K-9 Memorial Foundation provided a grant for the purchase of Faro. It's the second grant the foundation has made to local law enforcement — the first contribution was the June 2012 purchase of the Santa Clara Police Department's dog Argo. Sean Walsh had been an explorer with the Santa Clara Police Department before he was killed with action in Afghanistan in November 2011 while serving as a military police officer with the Army National Guard. Walsh had aspirations of becoming an officer and K9 handlers with the Santa Clara Police Department.
The Moulding Company, a South Bay company with locations in Santa Clara, Milbrae and Concord, donated the funds for the purchase of Ares. The company, owned by Kent Randall, has also provided funding to K-9 units in Martinez, Santa Clara, Burlingame and Sunnyvale. Randall started helping agencies purchase the dogs after reading about a service dog that passed away and the department didn’t have the funds for a replacement.
Other supporters and donors to the program includes the "Cover your K-9" fund, a project of the Police and Working K-9 Foundation, as well as the Griffith Family Trust and San Rafael residents Arthur and Joan Latno.
The first fundraiser for the San Rafael Police K-9 Association is set for Saturday, Sept. 28, at 6 p.m. at the San Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth Street in San Rafael. The fundraiser will include the screening of the movie “Turner and Hooch” and a canine demonstration.