In 1975, a Long Beach Police Officer was shot and killed after pursuing a robbery suspect. The high-speed pursuit had begun in Long Beach and ended approximately four miles away in Signal Hill. After shooting the officer, the suspect then hid in a nearby graveyard. More than 50 officers from four law enforcement departments searched the graveyard for two hours in the dark, but were unsuccessful in finding the suspect.
A police dog was sent from the Westminster Police Department and within 90 seconds of starting his search, was able to locate the suspect under a clump of bushes. Soeren Poulsen, one of the Long Beach officers that was on scene, was particularly impressed and, with his own money, decided to purchase a German Shepherd, later named Kazan, and trained it for police work. Poulsen, a native of Denmark, was familiar with the intensity of police dog training. The Danish State Police had been training dogs for police work since 1908 and employed somewhere between 1500 – 2000 trained dogs a year.
In 1978, Officer Poulsen went to Denmark at his own expense to attend a special five-week training session at an army base outside of Copenhagen. When he returned to Long Beach, he and Kazan went on patrol on a trial basis.
LONG BEACH POLICE DEPARTMENT K-9 UNIT - HISTORY
The unit was started on July 1st, 1978 by Officer Soeren Poulsen as a six-month trial program. This was not an idea thought up by the Police Deptartment, but a program presented to the Chief by Officer Poulsen. It was at this time that I became involved, as Officer Poulsen needed someone to play the bad guy for training (aka chew toy).
The dog that started the program was an American-bred German Shepherd named Kazan who Poulsen had been training in Schutzhund (a working dog competition). Dave Reavers of Adlerhorst Kennels in Riverside, CA helped. Dave continues to be a qualified supplier of K-9’s.
There was a small setback that occurred back in 1978. A Sergeant, while assisting Officer Poulsen to arrest a combative suspect, was bitten in the wallet by Kazan. Kazan had remained in the car during the arrest until he saw two people fighting with his handler (the bad guy plus the Sergeant). Kazan decided the odds were not in his handler’s favor and came to Poulsen’s defense as he had been trained to do. Unfortunately, the Sergeant was the first one Kazan reached. This resulted in retraining the dogs so if the handler was fighting with a suspect, the dogs were to stay out of the fight.
Within their first two months as a K-9 team Officer Poulsen and Kazan had made seven felony arrests and the Long Beach K-9 program was beginning to gain wide support.
After a re-evaluation of the program, it was decided in March of 1979 to add an additional dog team. Poulsen and I had been looking for another dog that I could start training while I was decoying for Kazan. Poulsen had contacts with the Danish State Police (his home country) who were looking for a dog for him and they found a dog named Clay.
After applying and being accepted to the new K-9 handler position, I purchased Kazan from Poulsen for the same cost to purchase K-9 Clay plus the cost of Clay’s airfare from Denmark. The total amount was $1,052.50. As you can see,
1) Handlers supplied their own dogs, and
2) The cost of dogs has gone up over the years (now around $10,000).
Kazan and I started working in April of 1979.
The Department, Officers, and the citizens of Long Beach accepted the dogs and by the end of 1979, there was a total of six dog teams. Officers Higley, Zabel, Stewart and Schroeder (who is now a Corporal and still a working handler) were added. The detail consisted of four Shepherds and two Rottweilers.Presently, the detail consists of eight K-9 teams with one Sergeant also assigned to the detail. The breeds of dogs have become a little more varied where the officers look to the Malinois breed due to their drive.
In the 22 years as a detail, Long Beach has been recognized as the most respected in the State. Their handler course has seen hundreds of officers from all over the West Coast and beyond.
LONG BEACH K-9 OFFICERS ASSOCIATION - HISTORY
Initially, each Officer was buying his own K-9. When Poulsen and I started the unit, we decided we wanted to keep it that way. We felt we would get Officers that were dedicated to the Unit and invest in the necessary training on their own time to maintain the dog’s proficiency.
Each Officer received an additional skill pay for working with the dog. In the beginning we were each paying $10 a month to assist in buying equipment. As an example, we were short on training bite sleeves and we would roll newspaper for our arms for protection. We bought our dog food in multi-bag lots for a discount and stored it in a handler’s garage. That was the start of the K-9 Association, six handlers saving money for equipment and food.
We decided to start an association similar to the Long Beach Police Officers Association (LBPOA). In October 1982 with the help of Chuck Gangloff and his wife (both attorneys) who donated their time and expertise, the by-laws and non-profit corporation paperwork was filed. So the Long Beach K-9 Officers Association (LBK9OA) was established. The LBPOA assisted by paying our filing fees.
Dick Aden and Tom Stewart were the first to take the necessary positions as Board Members. The Board of Directors runs the Association and the K-9 Officers are advisors.
As the cost of dogs has gone up, now running close to $10,000 each, the Board has assisted in the purchase of dogs. A first-time handler still has to put $2,000 towards the purchase of his first dog and the Association pays the balance. The Officers commits to work with that dog for five years after certification. The dog does remain the property of the Association for five years. The Association also pays for vaccinations, teeth-cleaning, yearly check-ups, and all medical expenses except if the dog is injured on duty. The City of Long Beach pays on-duty medical expenses.
The Association’s Board consists of 17 Directors and 100’s of dues-paying members from the community. The Board meets once a month and holds an annual Membership meeting along with a K-9 demonstration.