K-9 program faces overhaul
Lt. Paul Rolleri said that after 13 years, Officer Henry Guillen was simply ready to do something new. Rolleri said that when Guillen leaves the training position at the end of this week, he’ll go back to patrol.
Rolleri was quick to stress that Guillen’s departure was not the result of an administrative review the department had been doing after a dog in the program attacked an officer and was shot and killed, in December 2009.
“It’s not a situation that he was forced out because of the review. He just wanted to do other things,” said Alameda Police Lt. Paul Rolleri, who conducted the review. He called Guillen “a well-respected trainer with a lot of experience.”
Rolleri said that the administrative review didn’t find any glaring issues with the K-9 program, though he said that in the future, the department should keep more robust records of its dogs’ training sessions in order to better troubleshoot for potential problems. He said the department should also automate its training records, which are now on paper.
The review came after Billy, a 5 ½-year-old Belgian Malinois, attacked an officer during a call and wouldn’t let go. The officer shot Billy when the dog’s handler was unable to get him to release her arm. The department suspended the program while the review was being conducted.
Rolleri said officers will probably never know why Billy attacked the officer, who has since returned to modified duty and may return to full duty soon. Police said at the time of the incident that Billy had three bites during his three-year career with the department, and they told the Journal’s Peter Hegarty in January that each of the bites involved a suspect and fell within department guidelines.
“We don’t know why Billy went after that officer,” he said.
In May 2009, a police dog died after an officer left the dog in his car for more than three hours. The district attorney’s office opted not to press charges in connection with that incident, citing insufficient evidence.
When Guillen leaves the training position – for which he was not paid any additional salary – he will also retire his dog, Mido, 6. That would have left one officer and one dog in the program. That officer also left the program, as will his dog, because there is no one available to train him.
Rolleri said he plans to compare Alameda’s K-9 program to those in other departments as he seeks to rebuild it. He said Alameda police were fortunate to have Guillen as an in-house trainer and that most departments rely on an outside company to handle their dog training.
Alameda has had a K-9 program on and off since 1980, Rolleri said, with Guillen serving as trainer since 1997. And Rolleri said he thinks the department can get grant money to help restart it.
“We will resume a K-9 program. It just won’t look the way that it did,” he said.