Bobby, La Habra’s unique narcotics K9, continues to be huge asset for the agency
The bad guys took extra steps to make sure their ill-gotten gains would get transported with no hitches — that the faint scent of methamphetamine on the stacks of bills would remain undetected.
They vacuum-sealed $500,000 in 12 bricks and surrounded them with coffee grounds in a mini-refrigerator that had been sprayed with insecticide.
The mini-fridge had been placed inside a wooden container, which itself had been placed in a larger wooden crate stored in the shipping container.
The bad guys, however, hadn’t counted on a formidable nemesis: Bobby, the La Habra’s PD’s 40-pound, floppy-eared and brown-and-white narcotics-sniffing K9, a 3½-year-old English springer spaniel born in Ireland.
A federal drug task force had received a tip that dope money from the East Coast was being sent to Fontana in the shipping container.
Bobby and his handler, La Habra PD Reserve Officer Rob Sims, were summoned to assist.
Bobby quickly “alerted” while excitedly sniffing around outside the huge shipping container. After detecting the scent of narcotics, he stood still.
A search warrant was issued, and the feds found the $500,000 and seized it.
That bust, at the end of 2014, still remains the biggest of Bobby’s career after he joined the La Habra PD in May 2014.
Today, Bobby continues to be a huge asset for the LHPD, dramatically saving his human partners time on warrant and probation searches for cocaine, methamphetamine and other illegal common street drugs.
He’s also a big celebrity in La Habra as a massively popular fixture at public events and PD demonstrations.
In Orange County, Bobby’s role is unique among law enforcement agencies.
He exclusively is assigned to the La Habra PD’s Investigations Unit, although as in the Fontana case, he frequently assists other local, state and federal agencies. Most police agencies’ “dope dogs” are assigned to patrol cars and also assist in running down bad guys.
Bobby only is used to find dope.
“I knew he was going to be good from the beginning,” said Sims, a 22-year reserve officer for the LHPD who for the last decade has worked as an undercover narcotics specialist in the Investigations Unit.
“If anything,” said Sims, “he’s gotten even better. He has all the skills, and in many ways he’s trained me.”
ALL ABOUT TRAINING
To get some idea about a dog’s amazing olfactory capabilities compared to humans, considered seasoning —- you know, the stuff many people love to shake onto their steaks.
To humans, the seasoning is one scent.
“If Bobby could talk,” Sims said, “he could break down every single odor in the seasoning — paprika, salt, pepper, whatever — and tell us all the ingredients.”
All dogs have this capability. But for working dogs like Bobby, the quality of training directly translates to how well they do on the job.
And Bobby, Sims said, is one of the best.
Before Sims even met Bobby — the La Habra Police Canine Foundation raised $15,000 from private donors to pay for Bobby, since there was no money in the agency’s budget for a new K9 — Bobby had undergone six months of specialized training.
Sims then spent an additional 80 hours in training with Bobby, rewarding him each time he alerted on a target with a chew toy. Only then, was it time for them to work.
“To him, it isn’t work though, it’s a game,” Sims said. “You basically want a hyper dog you can reel in when you need to. All Bobby cares about is getting the toy.”
Bobby has been on a few hundred searches in his two years and nine months on the job at the LHPD.
“Where he’s really helped a lot is speeding up the time it takes to do searches,” Sims said. “It can take four of us the better part of four to six hours to search an average home in La Habra. Bobby can do it in 30 minutes.”
Sims, who is a business owner, averages about 60 hours a month as a reserve LHPD officer.
Bobby gets recertified every year as a narcotics K9, but every day he gets some form of training, and Sims engages him in formal training sessions once a week and also monthly.
When he’s not working, Bobby hangs out with Sims’ other two dogs, an English bulldog and a mutt.
“This isn’t a job,” Sims said. “This is my getaway, my stress reliever, believe it or not. I have the best job here, hands down. I get to come and do police work with Bobby, do my paperwork, and go home, then come back and do it all over again.”