SRP-APS partnership to help Phoenix PD K9s train in safer conditions
Gilly, a 65-pound German shepherd-collie mix from the Czech Republic, is one of the Phoenix Police Department’s smallest dogs. But his tenacity makes up for his modest size. He is certified in patrol work, along with narcotic and cadaver detection.
But until recently, Gilly and the 16 other pawed protectors in the patrol division were training under less-than-ideal conditions.
The dogs sharpen their skills in the K9 training center at the Arizona Law Enforcement Academy, tucked away at the base of South Mountain behind an unassuming neighborhood off of 15th Avenue. It’s a short walk through a rocky desert area to get to the grassy K9 facility built a little over three years ago.
“It was a great idea in concept,” Phoenix Police Lt. Sean Kennedy said. “But once we started using it, we realized that a lot of our guys work at night and there’s no lighting. It’s pitch black out here.”
Lighting wasn’t in the budget though. Kennedy said the police department buys two to three dogs a year at $8,000 to $10,000 each, sucking up most of the K9 unit’s funds.
Police officers are used to thinking on their feet, so they got creative: “We’d park all of our cars right there so we could use our spotlights and headlights to get a little bit of light out here,” said Phoenix Police Sgt. Rich Maiocco, pointing to a spot just along the training center’s perimeter.
But it’s not the most efficient way of lighting the area nor the safest — headlights don’t do a great job of illuminating dangers that could be slithering by.
“This is the desert. At nighttime, especially this time of year, snakes are looking for something a little bit cooler,” Maiocco said. “If we put a dog out here and unbeknownst to us there’s a rattlesnake, we’re looking at thousands of dollars to fix a multi-thousand dollar tool.”
The nonprofit Champions of Phoenix Police K9s heard about the issue and contacted APS, which it knew had donated time and equipment for lighting projects at other facilities.
APS quickly realized that the training facility wasn’t in its service territory and reached out to SRP Government Relations’ Stephanie Navarro for help. She met with Wayne Wisdom, Senior Director of Distribution Grid Services, and Lori Jones, Maintenance Services Manager, to come up with a plan.
“APS was still interested in participating, so they brought the equipment to the table and SRP brought the labor to the table through our contractor Fluoresco,” Jones said. “It was a really nice joint effort.”
Fluoresco donated all of its time and efforts in completing the work, and three light poles were set in place last week. When the final touches are put on this first-of-its kind collaboration, the dogs will be learning new tricks under the glow of a more dependable and safe source of light.
“It’s going to be an awesome addition,” Kennedy said. “It will be nice to be able to just come out here and flip a switch and get to work.”
Photo: Heather Albert