July 1 was a full day for Westminster Police Department K9 Officer Pako. He handled a steady night of calls, a ride-along covered live on social media, and a briefing.
The events were not unusual for Pako, except for one thing: It was Pako’s last day as a police officer.
In fact, his briefing for the night shift team was titled, “Making It To Retirement: A briefing training by K9 Pako.”
Though his last day of police work was fairly normal, Pako’s career has been far from typical.
Pako has become a bit of an Instagram celebrity, with 12,000 followers and a send-off video hitting 2 million views. He and his handler, Officer Travis Hartman, have taken on philanthropic causes as well, on top of their regular community outreach and Pako’s work as an apprehension and narcotics dog.
Pako has garnered a lot of love from the community and the City of Westminster throughout the years. Westminster Mayor Tri Ta expressed that sentiment at Pako’s retirement ceremony during the June 22 City Council meeting.
“We’re really proud of him,” said Ta. “Our children of our community really love him. … On behalf of the City Council, we want to thank Officer Pako for service to the City of Westminster and the Westminster community.”
Westminster Police Chief Darin Lenyi added: “We do want to congratulate you and your partner for seven years of service. A lot of good work was done.”
Over Pako’s seven years as a Westminster Police K9, he performed 237 deployments/searches, forced 102 surrenders and apprehended eight suspects. Over his three years as a narcotics K9, he found $532,000 (street value) in narcotics.
Together with Hartman, they also worked with the Seal Beach and Costa Mesa police departments to develop their own K9 programs. They also assisted West County SWAT on 10 missions involving slaphouses in Westminster, plus supported local, state and federal agencies on investigations throughout the years.
Pako and Hartman accrued over 5,000 hours of tactical training.
Hartman became a guest instructor for Fullerton Junior College criminal justice courses, covering use-of-force laws and applications, burglary, robbery and other thefts, K9 protocol and legal considerations, as well as a guest speaker at Golden West College’s police academy. Hartman completed all required courses to become a state-certified K9 team evaluator, and he was elected by his peers to a two-year term on the board of the Orange County Police Canine Association.
Hartman also authored and presented a proposal to add a second dog team to the Westminster Police Department in 2019, which included obtaining a $20,000 donation to cover the cost of the dog and basic handler school.
Commander Scott Gump, who oversees the K9 program for the Westminster Police Department, said the team has represented the police department well.
“He’s a great ambassador, both him and Officer Hartman, for what we represent in the community,” said Gump. “He’s a friendly dog, but can flip that switch when he needs to go and do his job, and that’s what makes him so versatile and an asset to our department. We love him and are sorry to see him go.”
Judging from his Instagram page (@westminsterpolicek9), Pako is adjusting to retired life well — much as Hartman suspected he would.
He’s not totally off the clock. These days he patrols Hartman’s house and watches over his young children. Plus, he’s still participating in fundraisers, including one for Operation Freedom Paws, an organization which helps empower veterans and those with disabilities by helping them train service dogs.
Just in the last few years, Hartman and Pako have raised $22,000 for various charities.
Hartman’s move out of the K9 program and back into patrol has been bittersweet.
“As they were listing some of the things Pako and I have accomplished over the last seven years — from catching murder suspects, to preventing residents or officers from being hurt by violent suspects, to narcotics searches for our different partner agencies to my most cherished duty, visiting our friends at the schools — I say this,” Hartman said. “Our K9 partners are the most invaluable and versatile asset we have. They are capable of taking on a multitude of tasks and all they ask for in return is loyalty and companionship … oh and the occasional pup cup.
“So, as one of my mentor handlers said to me very early on, ‘You will never find a more true definition of partner than your K9. Work hard every day to earn that title for him.’… His retiring healthy and happy is my way of repaying him for seven years of dedication.”