This story appeared in the San Rafael News Pointer on August 21, 2013
Police K9s return to San Rafael Police Department
The swearing in of the San Rafael Police Department’s two newest members was met with wagging tongues and tails alike, as the occasion marked the return of the K9 unit after an 11-year absence.
In a ceremony Monday night at San Rafael City Hall, the department welcomed Ares and Faro, two male German Shepherds. The canines received their police badges in front of a packed city council chamber.
The department previously had a K9 unit for more than 20 years, but it was eliminated in 2003 due to budget cuts.
“We’re very excited about having the canines back with us after 11 years,” San Rafael Mayor Gary Phillips said. “The first day they were here, they reported for a bank robbery in Larkspur. So right away they were in action.”
Corporal Michael Byers partners with Ares and Officer Christian Diaz teams up with Faro. Both dogs are about two years old, and each lives and works with their handler. Ares was born in Czechoslovakia, and Faro was born in Hungary.
Faro was obtained through a grant from the Sean M. Walsh K-9 Memorial Foundation. A Bay Area native who wanted to become a police K9 handler, Walsh, a Military Police Officer with the Army National Guard, was killed while serving in Afghanistan.
“Since he was 12, he wanted to be a K9 handler,” his mother Cheryl Walsh said. “We’ve only donated two [dogs] to the Bay Area. The first was in Santa Clara; we got requests for another three more.”
The dogs and their handlers underwent an extensive two-and-a-half months of training by Golden Gate K9 in Santa Rosa. Company owner Frank Romano selected Ares and Faro from a kennel in Holland.
“I think they did very well,” Romano said. “Their narcotic detection is off the charts. For a new community, they’ve got really strong, social dogs and I’m really pleased with the outcome.”
Mutual aid is important in Marin, as only the Novato and San Rafael police department have K9 units.
“[Mutual aid) is actually relatively common,” Byers said. “They usually go with whoever is available.”
In theory, a San Rafael K9 unit could travel north to Novato if a Novato K9 unit wasn’t available, just as one from Novato could go as far south as Sausalito.
While the Marin County Sheriff’s Office also has police dogs, those canines are only trained in explosives detection. The newly acquired police dogs are trained to not only search for narcotics and criminals, but also for people who are lost, such as those with dementia.
San Rafael Police Chief Diana Bishop said she is glad to have a K9 unit again.
“We haven’t had them for 11 years, and when I got here that was one of the things that was very important to me and to bring that tool back both to the officers and the community,” Bishop said. “[That] they’re out working the community now is very heartwarming and very exciting for me. I couldn’t be more thrilled.”
Those wishing to support the San Rafael Police K9 Association can learn more at srpolicek9.org.
National Night Out in San Rafel’s
Bret Harte neighborhood
Residents of the Bret Harte neighborhood in San Rafael gathered in their local park Tuesday night for National Night Out.
This was the 30th annual National Night Out, a community-police partnership event that encourages residents to meet their neighbors and to participate in neighborhood watch programs.
Bret Harte neighbors brought food for a potluck dinner. The event had a good turnout which also saw police officers visit, two were with the CSI program and brought their truck. There was also a K9 officer who brought along the first police dog in the city for several years.
As more neighbors came by so did a San Rafael fire truck. Firefighters and police officers handed out plastic police and fire helmets to children and let the kids sit in the fire truck.
Another special visitor of the night was City Councilman Damon Connolly who met residents.
Resident Nigel Faulkner was pleased with how the event went. “It was a great turnout for our first event, it was great to see the police and fire department,” Faulkner said.
He has lived in Bret Harte for 16 years. “It’s a really solid, great, friendly neighborhood. It’s good to see neighborhood spirit,” Faulkner said.
The neighborhood has residents outside often. “A lot of families look out for each other, there are always people out walking dogs or taking strolls,” David Leipsic, a resident of 19 years said.
The event brought neighbors together where one of the items discussed was the Labor Day community yard sale and picnic next month.