La Habra PD unleashes officers of a different breed

La Habra has two of the most unique K9s in O.C. law enforcement: Bobby, a narcotics dog assigned to Investigations, and Emerson, a ‘comfort canine.

By Greg Hardesty

“Let me go get some dope.”

It’s something you don’t expect to hear from a cop, but La Habra Police Reserve Officer Rob Sims wants to show off the amazing skills of one of Orange County’s most unique police K9s.

His name is Bobby, a 38-pound English Springer Spaniel born in Ireland.

After Sims hides an unusable amount of cocaine in a conference room at La Habra PD headquarters, Bobby bursts through the door.

His tail wagging furiously, the brown-and-white 2-year-old takes about a minute to locate the dope, freezing when his keen olfactory skills hone in on the strongest scent emanating from a closed drawer.

“Good boy!” Sims says as he hands Bobby his reward:

A chew toy.

Bobby

Most O.C. police agencies have German Shepherd or Belgian Malinois K9s assigned to patrol cars and whose various skills include sniffing out dope and running down bad guys.

Bobby, who went into service at the end of May, is unique as a police service dog not only in breed, but because he’s exclusively assigned to La Habra PD’s Investigations Unit to detect cocaine, methamphetamine and other illegal drugs during warrant and probation searches.

“He really cuts down on the man hours required to conduct a search,”says Sims, a 22-year La Habra PD veteran. “He’s doing amazing work.”

Bobby can thoroughly search an average-sized home in 30 to 40 minutes, Sims says —a job that could take a team of human officers the good part of a day.

Emerson, Bobby’s much-larger K9 colleague, a 105-pound Golden Retriever and Labrador cross, also is a special police dog used in the field to help traumatized people. Emerson has also been known to boost the morale of officers and helps them work through job-related stress.

emerson

“In a very traumatic or stressful situation, Emerson’s calmness will transfer to someone else,”says the department’s lead chaplain, Mike Murphy, a volunteer who has been employing Emerson’s services at the La Habra PD since 2010.

Murphy, minister of La Habra Church of Christ, recalls taking Emerson, who he bred initially to be a guide dog, to a home where a 17-year-old discovered the decaying body of her grandmother.

Frozen in grief and unwilling to speak, the teen was sitting on a couch when Murphy arrived.

“I have a partner with me today,”Murphy told her. “Would you like to meet him?”

After a beat, she responded: “I think I would.”

For 45 minutes, the young woman sat with Emerson on the floor, petting him.

“I’m fine now,”she finally spoke up, to a relative. “Let’s go.”

Says Murphy: “Emerson helps take traumatized people out of the moment. People need assistance for their emotions as much as they do for their bodies. Emerson’s just a big sweetheart, and that’s what these people need.”

Emerson doesn’t cost the La Habra PD a dime. In addition to his therapy role, he’s a huge PR machine for the department, melting hearts at public events.

And thanks to a group of La Habra residents, Bobby also came gift-wrapped to the La Habra PD, which like all law enforcement agencies faces a tight budget.

Near the end of last year, the La Habra Police Canine Foundation formed and raised $15,000 from private donors to pay for Bobby. There was no money in the department’s budget for a new K9, says Sims.

“We are grateful for the incredible community support that brought Bobby and Emerson to our department,”Police Chief Jerry Price said. “They play a hugely valuable role in helping to keep La Habra as safe as possible, and are an absolute joy to have around the department.”