Longtime Garden Grove resident Kay Parcell recently met the city’s newest addition to its police K9 unit – Vader.
“Oh, he’s still a baby,” she said, petting the 16-month-old male black German shepherd. “How cute.”
The 68-pound puppy, who was in his second week working patrol, trotted out of his patrol car parked at the Garden Grove Police Department on Feb. 27, black rubber toy in his mouth, ready to make new friends, Parcell among them.
It is because of Parcell’s $10,000 donation to the agency that Vader now has a job at GGPD.
In the fall of 2014, after her father’s passing, she decided to make the donation in her father’s name. Her father, a retired Marine, was passionate about three things: the Marines, the police and German shepherds. When she learned that GGPD only had one police K9 on patrol in the city, she knew she had to contribute.
“I wanted it to go to my own city,” said Parcell, who has lived in Garden Grove for more than 50 years.
Sgt. Ray Bex, who coordinated with Parcell to arrange the donation for the unit, said that due to city budgetary constraints, the number of K9s went from four to three in 1996, down to two a little later in the ’90s and to one in 2002. Limited to one K9 and handler, the city has been requesting assistance from other area agencies when additional K9s were needed. In 2014, according to Bex, GGPD had 85 requests to outside agencies for K9 assistance.
“I think it’s an honor to have somebody in the community as long as Ms. Parcell has [been]to donate the money,” said Sgt. Brian Dalton, who recently took over the K9 unit from Bex.
To thank Parcell, Vader’s handler, Master Officer Edgar Valencia, presented her with the agency’s Challenge Coin.
Valencia, who has been with the agency for 12 years, said he had some help naming his new partner.
“My children and nephew helped me name him,” said Valencia.
Valencia brought Vader home about two months ago, and the dog is doing well with his new family – including Valencia’s children and a 10-year-old female Australian shepherd, Hailey.
“For the most part, he just wants to play,” Valencia said.
After their five-week training, Valencia and Vader took to the field. They’ve gone to several burglary alarm calls, including a residential burglary where Vader searched the house for suspects.
“That’s the safest thing for our officers,” said Valencia, adding that the sound of a police dog barking can often elicit surrenders from suspects – the best scenario when dealing with apprehensions.
Cpl. John Bankson, a K9 handler for 1 1/2 years who has been with the agency for 13 years, has experienced these types of surrenders at least a dozen times. His 2 1/2-year-old sable-colored, 85-pound male German shepherd, Rex, joined the agency’s unit in July. Since working patrol, Rex has also logged roughly about a dozen narcotics finds.
“He’s all work, all the time,” said Bankson.
Just recently on Feb. 24, Rex was able to elicit a surrender. The partners went out to a call for a possible break-in at a home staged for sale. When Bankson alerted the suspect that he was sending his K9 in, the suspect – a transient – came out of the house on his own.
“Their role is to find people and to find things,” said Bex, adding that “things” include narcotics, evidence and weapons.
He said there is a common misperception that police dogs are vicious, when in fact, they are not. They are actually used to lessen the chance for injury. When a dog bites to apprehend a suspect, he said, typically the injury potential is minimal as compared to an officer having to use a Taser or firearm.
“These dogs are playful,” said Bex. “Their purpose is to go out every day and do their job.”
Their reward for a job well done is pleasing their handler and getting some playtime. After a narcotics find, playtime comes in the form of a toy. In the case of an apprehension, catching a suspect is the reward – much like a regular pet dog catches a ball.
“When I send my dog into the building looking for a person, the person is the reward,” said Bankson. “They’re no more vicious to a person than a collie is to a tennis ball.”
Parcell hopes others in the community will donate additional funds so the agency can have at least four dogs again.
“Oh, I think he’d be thrilled,” she said of her father regarding the donation. “I’m sorry I couldn’t buy all four.”