By Deborah Brancic, Pasadena Now Correspondent
A crime-fighting dog located several boxes of “narcotics” in the Brookside Country Club early Thursday morning, as part of a skills demonstration.
Officer Steve Arcand led his four-legged partner, Figo, in a search of the room as a crowd in the banquet hall watched in amusement.
Figo uncovered several hidden boxes representing methamphetamine, heroin, and cocaine, and eventually located marijuana stashed under the chair of Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez.
“I hope you have a prescription for this,” joked Arcand.
Many well known community members were in attendance at the breakfast, to show support for the Pasadena Police Foundation, which raising money to aid the Pasadena Police Department add a new canine law enforcement officer to its roster.
Notable attendees included Pasadena City Manager Michael Beck, Sen. Carol Liu, L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, Pasadena City College President Dr. Mark Rocha, Pasadena Unified Board President Renatta Cooper, Pasadena Tournament of Roses President Scott Jenkins, San Marino Police Chief Timothy Harrigan, as well as Chief of Police Sanchez and his wife, Deborah.
“We use the canines as a locating tool, utilizing their noses,” said Officer Matt Widger. “They can smell a lot more than humans, all the different odors mixed together. This makes it easier to locate suspects and discarded evidence. We use them in yard searches, it puts us at an advantage.”
He and his canine partner, Nico, had just finished training in March 2012. Widger has been with the PPD for eleven years.
Several presentations were given throughout the morning to demonstrate the importance of the canine unit, including an informational video and a live demonstration. The Pasadena Police Dept. has recently retired one service dog, Bono, and hopes to add two more to its roster.
Currently, Pasadena police have two active canine law enforcement officers: Figo and Nico. Each new service dog costs about $82,000, according to a Police Foundation press release. This includes the purchase of the animal, additional training, vehicle modifications, veterinary costs and outfitting. Some necessary modifications to police cruisers include kennels and a door popper, which allows officers to monitor inside temperatures of the vehicle and auto-release the car door should they need canine assistance.
“Our dogs are trained in Holland. When we get a new service dog, we go to Europe and get the best,” said Arcand. “They are well motivated and score high. Figo has been on the force for four years now, we hope to get another five out of him.” Arcand said he plans to retire with Figo, and explained that when service dogs retire they remain with the officer’s family.
During the breakfast, a junior from AGBU Vatche & Tamar Manoukian High School was presented with the Bernard Melekian Outstanding Youth Award. Angela Hawecotte, PPF member and Chair of the award committee, announced Troy Mgrditchian as this year’s recipient.
“He made our decision very easy this year,” she said, explaining that recipients should have a positive influence on their peers, perform community service, and overcome adversity to turn their life around. Mgrditchian said that his career goals included joining the FBI in its forensics division.
Raffle prizes at the breakfast included a helicopter ride-along, a patrol car ride-along, and lunch with Police Chief Sanchez. Proceeds from the breakfast will go towards funding for a new service dog. About 230 people purchased tickets in advance, with additional walk-ins on the day of the event. Thus far, Wells Fargo has pledged $5,000 for the purchase of a new canine officer.