SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - "They can't raise their right paws, can they?" That was Santa Cruz County Sheriff Jim Hart, as he swore-in three new deputies in front of a packed crowd, Monday.
These K9 officers are the first of their kind in two years. Hart is bringing back the program he halted. Paws, protecting and serving. "Apprehension, narcotics detention, search and rescue. So this little team, can do a lot of different things and really make an impact," he said.
A Malinois and German Shepard-Malinois mix will work largely with apprehension and explosives. K9 Lola is assigned to the unit's leader, Sgt. Nick Baldrige. The 22-month-old Black Lab will help get drugs off Santa Cruz streets. "Odors of the narcotics that we are not able to smell, necessarily. Using her nose as a detection tool for narcotics, and also as we start working in search and rescue realm. Helping locate people by using her nose, and we don't have that ability," he said.
Baldrige was also a K9 handler the last time the department had this unit. He knows how valuable these dogs can be. Baldrige spoke with KION about the role they played to arrest attempted killer Maurice Ainsworth, who in 2010 escaped custody and fled. "We used a dog to clear multiple houses and eventually locate him without deputies and officers having to go in blind."
It is the reason the K9s and their handlers are always on call. The right team gets deployed for the matching situation.
"You get that in progress call where its an appropriate use of the K9. Having that animal available, its really valuable for our personnel when it comes down to the safety of our people," said Hart.
Lola, Murph and Colt will officially become Officers Lola, Murph and Colt today.
The three dogs will be formally sworn in as K9 officers with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office, in a public event at 10:00 a.m. at the Sheriff’s Office headquarters.
K9 Lola is a 22-month-old black Lab that trained in narcotics detection. Her handler is Sergeant Nick Baldrige.
K9 Murph is a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois that is trained in patrol apprehension and explosives detection. K9 Murph is handled by Deputy Alex Spencer.
K9 Colt is a 23-month-old Belgian Malinois and German Shephard cross that also trained in patrol apprehension and narcotics detection. K9 Colt’s handler is Deputy Emma Ramponi.
The swearing in ceremony is open to the public. The Sheriff's Office is located at 5200 Soquel Avenue in Santa Cruz.