Two high-performing K9s retire at La Habra PD; agency gets new four-legged crime fighter


La Habra city officials and the public recently had the opportunity to thank, and bid farewell, to two La Habra PD K9s responsible for sniffing out massive amounts of narcotics and keeping officers safe — and then welcome the department’s newest K9 and her handler.

At the May 15 City Council meeting, LHPD Chief Jerry Price, members of the council and the public celebrated the service of Cpl. Nick Baclit and Prinz and Cpl. Shawn Miller and Rocky.

After the K9s and their handlers were given commendations and applauded, Off. Travis Nelson and his K9, Rita, took center stage in the council chambers and were introduced as LHPD’s newest crime-fighting duo.

“They are a great resource for the community,” Price said of the K9s. “They are very valuable.”

La Habra PD K9 Prinz, who recently retired, clamps onto his favorite toy after being thanked for his service at the May 15 City Council meeting. Photo by Lou Ponsi/Behind the Badge OC

Cpl. Nick Baclit and Prinz

Prinz, an 11-year-old Belgium Malinois, trained for 240 hours just to be certified for apprehension and then trained an additional 200 hours to be a certified a narcotic detection K9, said Baclit, who began his partnership with Prinz in 2010.

In their seven years together, Baclit and Prinz were part of the LHPD’s narcotic and apprehension K9 team, and assisted North County SWAT with serving high-risk warrants.

During his tenure, Prinz has sniffed out 40 kilos of cocaine, 20 pounds of methamphetamine, located marijuana grows, found $200,000 in cash and discovered critical evidence such as firearms and knives.

Baclit, LHPD’s 2015 Officer of the Year, and Prinz also lent their services to other agencies.

Prinz will spend his retirement as the family pet, said Baclit, who is married with two young daughters.

“He is great with them,” the corporal said. “(He’ll) hang around the house being a dog and spending more time with the family.”

During her three years in service with La Habra PD, K9 Rocky has been responsible for sniffing out more than 56 pounds of methamphetamine, 462 pounds of marijuana, 17 pounds of cocaine, nine pounds of heroin, and a total and more than $1.6 million in cash. Photo by Lou Ponsi/Behind the Badge OC

Cpl. Shawn Miller and Rocky
In 2014, Miller and Rocky, a 9-year-old golden retriever and a narcotics-only detection K9, were assigned to the Orange County Homeland Security Task Force, where they assisted federal agents in combatting illegal drug sales and transportation through the city, county and state.

While on the task force, Miller and Rocky conducted extensive investigations leading to the location of 56 pounds of methamphetamine, 462 pounds of marijuana, 17 pounds of cocaine, nine pounds of heroin and more than $1.6 million in cash that had been made through criminal operations.

“His narcotic seizures are pretty impressive,” LHPD Chief Jerry Price said of Rocky.

Miller and Rocky performed more than 400 hours of training to maintain their certification and participated in numerous multi-agency training sessions.

The pair also assisted with several significant criminal investigations within La Habra, including one that involved a multi-location marijuana grow.

“I’ve definitely grown attached to him,” Miller said. “We’ve worked more than 40 hours a week together. We’ve developed a special bond.”

When there was speculation Rocky might move on to another assignment in lieu of retiring, Miller’s children were disappointed.

“But once they found out he was going to retire and stay home, they were ecstatic about it,” Miller said.

The family’s other two dogs also are ecstatic about Rocky spending more time at home.

“They play well together,” Miller said. “When he is gone, you can tell the other dogs are a little sad. When he gets home they are all excited, chasing each other and playing in the back yard. They’ve got a good bond.”

La Habra PD’s new K9, Rita, sits proudly alongside her handler, Off. Travis Nelson, waiting to be introduced to the public at the City Council meeting on May 15. Photo by Lou Ponsi/Behind the Badge OC

Off. Travis Nelson and Rita
Rita, a 2-year-old German shepherd and LHPD’s first-ever female K9, was acquired with funding provided by the La Habra Police Department K9 Foundation. The foundation is a non-profit organization that works independently from the La Habra Police Department to provide financial support to the “K9 Unit.”

After training for six weeks, she began going on patrol with Officer Nelson on May 12. Rita hasn’t been involved in any significant drug busts yet, but has performed some searches, Nelson said.

“She’s good at it,” the officer said.

As is the case with all police K9s, Rita goes home with Nelson when their shift is finished.

Nelson has not introduced his K9 partner to his children yet, and won’t do so until he’s sure the interactions would be safe.

“It takes about a year before you really know your K9,” he said.

But as far as the other adults in the house, said Nelson, “we just take the collar off and take the leash off and let her just do her thing.”

In taking over for Rocky and Prinz, Nelson said Rita “has big shoes to fill.”

Cpl. Nick Baclit and his newly retired K9, Prinz, posed for photos after being honored for their service by the City Council. Photo by Lou Ponsi/Behind the Badge OC

Travis Nelson and his new K9 partner Rita were introduced to the public at the City Council meeting on May 15. Photo by Lou Ponsi/Behind the Badge OC