Police Recruit a 4-Legged Partner


By Donna Furey | LB Indy


Laguna Beach police selected Officer Zachary Fillers as handler of a new police service dog, which is expected to join the department next month and start work in January.

By then, both the service dog and Fillers, a three-year member of the force, will have completed six weeks training, which will focus on teaching the dog to catch a fleeing suspect or assist one that resists.

The City Council recently approved the addition of a K-9 officer after the Woman’s Club pledged $14,000 towards the dog, equipment and training.

Former elected official Cheryl Kinsman initiated the campaign with a $1,000 donation. “We need a dog. It’s about safety of citizens and the police,” she said.

Earlier, police and some members of the public pleaded for the addition of a canine detective to help with what they portray as a rising problem with drug enforcement. Larry Bammer, president of the Laguna Beach Police Employees’ Association, said a K-9 unit, a trained dog and an officer, will help catch people dealing drugs.

Officer Zach Fillers
Officer Zach Fillers will soon patrol with a sidekick.

illers, along with Lt. Jeff Calvert and Sergeant Lee will pick up the department’s as-yet unnamed recruit on Friday, Oct. 31, from Adlerhorst’s kennels in Riverside. The City Council requested a dog with a temperament suited to interaction with the public, especially children. The dog, either a German shepherd or a Belgium Malinois, which looks similar to a shepherd, will live with Fillers.

The department first recruited a K-9 officer in 1988. Gero and his handler served the department until the dog’s retirement in 1996. Max stepped in until his retirement in November 2003, recounted Captain Jason Kravetz in an email.

Besides detecting narcotics, a canine can assist in locating missing persons or lost children, Kravetz said. It can overtake and detain fleeing suspects without risk of injury to an officer and reduce an officer’s risk of exposure during a building search, he said.

Also, hostile, intoxicated or mentally impaired people often back down in the presence of a dog, he said.

Fillers will learn proper and legal deployment of the dog based on current case law, Calvert said in an e-mail. Lee, Fillers’ supervisor, will attend the first week of K-9 training to learn his responsibilities in overseeing the program.

Following the initial course, Fillers will begin acclimating the dog to police department personnel and working in the field; a five-week narcotic detection school will follow, Calvert aid.

Fillers, a 2009 graduate of the Orange County Sheriff’s Academy, holds a bachelor’s degree in criminology from UC Irvine.

The Woman’s Club has not yet raised the full amount pledged for the dog and the kennel has agreed to monthly $1,000 payments until the cost of the dog is paid in full. Donations can be sent to the Woman’s Club and mailed to Kinsman’s office, 32355 Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, 92651.



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