Vallejo police forced to cut K-9, SWAT units

July 29, 2010 6:04:46 PM PDT
Vallejo has closed fire stations, slashed library hours, eliminated bus routes and cut 63 police positions, as well as its SWAT team. Now, Vallejo's K-9 units are the latest victims of the budget crisis; all but one K-9 units will be suspended at the end of this week.

The original plan was for Vallejo's four-dog K-9 unit to be suspended indefinitely starting Saturday. But late Thursday, Vallejo's police chief decided that they would keep one of the dogs, and hope that outside funding would support it.

"Our hope is the budget situation will change soon and we can come up with the money somewhere and we can start the program up again," Vallejo police Department spokesperson Lt. Abel Tenorio said.

Vallejo's K-9 program was among the first in Solano County.

One of its handlers, Officer Jeff Azuar and his K-9 partner Rhondo were killed in the line of duty in 2000. Azuar was shot; Rhondo was stabbed to death.

Police say the dogs are an important weapon in their arsenal.

"From finding suspects to finding missing persons, locating evidence, finding narcotics, you know, they're a deterrent for suspects," Contra Costa Sheriff's Office K-9 handler Sgt. Bob Roberts said.

In dangerous situations, the canines take the place of three or four cops.

"We get a lot more compliance, and peaceful compliance, with the dog as opposed to without the dog. People just don't want to fight the dog at all," Solano County Sheriff's Deputy Mike Waller said.

But the dogs are expensive to maintain.

"They are an expensive unit; there's monthly training that has to be done where the officers aren't on the streets because they have to training...with the dogs," Roberts said.

Vallejo's 17 member SWAT team will also be eliminated at the end of the week.

"I don't know where the bottom is at this point; we're just trying to do things day by day," Tenorio said.

Vallejo is hoping the Solano County Sheriff's Office will provide both SWAT and K-9 back-up, but a spokesperson for the Solano Sheriff's Office says their budget has been slashed and they are dealing with limited resources as well.

This weekend there will a fundraiser for K-9 units at locations around the Bay Area.


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