Westminster’s crime-fighting dog gets in Halloween spirit at Trunk or Treat

By Bradley Zint

On Friday night, the Westminster community celebrated Halloween with costumes and candy, but only one participant attended with his own fur and cape.

Pako, the Westminster Police Department’s 7-year-old Dutch shepherd, made his debut appearance at the first-ever Trunk or Treat event, held in Eastwood Elementary School’s parking lot next to Bolsa Chica Park.

Westminster Police Officer Travis Hartman adorns his police vehicle with Halloween decorations while setting up for a Trunk or Treat event at Bolsa Chica Park.
Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

The festivities were truly Southern California style: 47 cars, SUVs, and trucks – as well as a fire engine – parked in the lot, opened their trunks and flatbeds, and were decorated to become mini-Halloween stopovers for children and adults to peruse, grab treats, and use for Instagram-worthy photos. An estimated 1,700 people attended.

Decorations included a mix of Dia de los Muertos skeletons, gravestones, witches, and ghouls, with a few spiders and not-so-scary Disney characters for good measure. One family mixed two holidays, celebrating in St. Patrick’s Day garb.

Local families set up their cars with Halloween decorations and buckets of candy while kids in costume play together.
Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Laura Rose, a Realtor and broker associate with Laura Rose Homes & Associates and Keller Williams Realty Huntington Beach, organized the event alongside Eastwood Elementary School’s PTA. The campus helped gather about 1,500 pounds of candy.

Accompanying Pako was Officer Travis Hartman, Pako’s handler and a department veteran who started as an Explorer more than 15 years ago. He decorated the K9 unit police car with cobwebs and placed a cauldron of candy and Pako trading cards to give out to the children.

Alice Dolloff, 2, of Westminster “walks the plank” to get candy out of a car trunk while Samantha Dolloff looks on during a Trunk or Treat event.
Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Hartman said events like Trunk or Treat help the community learn about Pako, who wore a red cape for the occasion.

“It’s his Superman cape,” Hartman said with a smile.

Pako was born in the Netherlands and takes his commands in Dutch. He is trained in apprehension and searching for articles, and has been paired with Hartman since March 2015. Pako was the first police service dog in Westminster since 1994.

Westminster Police Officer Travis Hartman ties a Superman cape around the neck of his police K9, Pako, during a Trunk or Treat event at Bolsa Chica Park.
Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Pako is not only well trained, but very well-tempered for the job, Hartman said, and is able to enjoy the company of excited children one moment and aggressively pursue a suspect soon after.

Pako’s goings-on have quite the following, with more than 7,500 followers on his Instagram account, @westminsterpolicek9. Hours after posing on the grass with his Superman cape, Pako helped find a burglary suspect that night who had barricaded himself in a commercial office.

Participants also voted for their favorite Halloween trunk displays. First, second and third place received a pumpkin trophy. Or, more importantly, Rose joked, they received “all-important bragging rights.”

Steffany Gonzalez of Westminster lifts a giant stuffed spider onto the roof of her car.
Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Local families set up their cars with Halloween decorations and buckets of candy while kids in costume play together during a Trunk or Treat event at Bolsa Chica Park.
Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Officer Travis Hartman, the canine handler for the Westminster Police Department, introduces his dog, Pako, to Violet Yoshihara, 10, left, of Westminster and Sofia Naylonnavarette, 9, of Westminster.
Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Sydnie Gonzalez, 9, of Westminster carries a giant spider that will be used in decorating her family’s car for a Trunk or Treat event at Bolsa Chica Park.
Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Officer Travis Hartman, the canine handler for the Westminster Police Department, introduces his dog, Pako, to Violet Yoshihara, 10, left, of Westminster and Sofia Naylonnavarette, 9, of Westminster.
Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Local families set up their cars with Halloween decorations and buckets of candy while kids in costume play together.
Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Westminster Police Officer Travis Hartman adorns his police vehicle with Halloween decorations while his police K9 Pako looks on.
Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Westminster Police Officer Travis Hartman takes a photo of his police K9, Pako, with a Superman cape.
Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Local families set up their cars with Halloween decorations and buckets of candy while kids in costume play together.
Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Westminster locals Violet Yoshihara, left, 10, and Sofia Naylonnavarette, 9, take a selfie in front of a Westminster police vehicle.
Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Westminster Police Officer Travis Hartman adorns his police vehicle with Halloween decorations.
Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Westminster Police Officer Travis Hartman takes a photo of his police K9, Pako, with a Superman cape, during a Trunk or Treat event at Bolsa Chica Park.
Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Steffany Gonzalez of Westminster lifts a giant stuffed spider onto the roof of her car while decorating for a Trunk or Treat event.
Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Westminster Police Officer Travis Hartman adorns his police vehicle with Halloween decorations.
Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge

Mario DeGiglio of Westminster decorates the trunk of his car for a Trunk or Treat Halloween celebration at Bolsa Chica Park in Westminster.
Photo by Jeff Antenore/Behind the Badge