Santa Ana Police Department K9 Officer Rik still bears the marks of his latest encounter. The injury didn’t come from anything as exciting as taking down a perpetrator or suspect. Instead, Rik went full force, face first, into a fence during a recent training exercise.
You’ve heard the cliché about running through a brick wall? Meet Rik.
“He’s kind of a doof,” jokes Rik’s partner and handler, Officer Ethan Maietta. “He’ll get where he needs to go.”
Together, Rik and Maietta make up the Santa Ana Police Department’s newest tandem in the Canine Unit. The pair teamed up in October after Rik’s former partner, Luis Galeana, rotated to another unit.
Santa Ana Police Department has eight working dogs. Among them are Rosie, a bloodhound, used to track missing persons or suspects by scent, and Shadow, a Labrador, the first full-time therapeutic K9 in Orange County. Shadow is sometimes used in interviews to soothe juvenile victims of violent crimes.
There is also one k9 trained in the detection of narcotics, which enables him to assist patrol and narcotics officers, as well as outside law enforcement agencies, in locating illegal drugs.
During a recent photo shoot, Rik was all over the place, checking out passersby and looking to play and jump on anyone nearby. If he were not held tight by Maietta, you might think he was an overly friendly family pet.
“He’s very good with people. He’ll come right up,” Maietta said. “When it’s game time, he’s locked in.”
Rik was trained in Europe before being purchased by the Santa Ana Police Department. Although he is all love and energy, with a few quick commands in Dutch, he goes on full alert. Playtime is over.
In their short tenure together, Rik and Maietta have made some impressive take downs, including an agitated man who had attacked several people in an apartment complex and had been wielding a knife. Rik went into action and subdued the man so police could come in safely and make the arrest.
Recently, Maietta said another SAPD canine was able to flush out a suspect who fled into a tightly cramped attic that officers would not have been able to enter safely without help from the K9s.
Maietta, who joined the SAPD seven years ago following six years in the Marines, said being on the Canine Unit is an assignment he had “longed for” since joining the department.
For several years, Maietta volunteered to “agitate” police dogs at training facilities. Agitating is the term trainers use for people who don protective gear and play the roles of villains or aggressors for the dogs to attack or subdue.
Six months ago, when Galeana changed assignments, Maietta immediately applied for the opening.
“It was a smooth transition,” Maietta said. “I got to train with Luis and Rik.”
If all goes well, Rik and Maietta will be teamed for another six or seven years, until Rik retires.
In the meantime, Rik and Maietta are life partners. Rik goes home with Maietta, who is married and has two other Malinois, Kenai and Kylo. There the three dogs frolic and play, although Kylo, the five-year-old, is the leader of the pack.
Then it’s back to work.
“They’re one of the greatest assets a police agency can have,” Maietta said of the K9s. “They not only protect us, they protect the public.”