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Police get five new officers, plus one canine

New recruits are joined by Branko, a specially trained dog.

September 04, 2012|By Veronica Rocha, veronica.rocha@latimes.com
(Raul Roa/Staff…)

Five police recruits and a four-legged, 2 1/2 -year-old canine colleague were the latest to join the Glendale Police Department on Tuesday.

Scott Wessel, James Brand, Ian Torley, Alex Mena and Carlos Soriano, who became a reserve officer, were sworn at a one-of-a kind ceremony in which the department’s newest German shepherd, Branko, also earned a badge to carry on his collar.

“He is truly official now,” Police Chief Ron De Pompa said of Branko.

Prior to becoming Branko’s handler, Officer Alex Rolando worked for more than 14 years with the department and spent at least 2,000 hours with Glendale’s K-9 unit. He’s all too familiar with the strength of his four-legged partners, including police dogs Yudy, Isy, Quwai and their retired colleagues: He has allowed them to clamp their jaws down on him during training while wearing a “bite suit.”

“Not only do we have to take care of the dogs here, but they go home with us too, so they are a part of the family,” Rolando said. “We have to care for them 24 hours a day, so it is a big commitment.”

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Branko arrived in the U.S. from Germany earlier this year.

Soon after, Rolando and Branko underwent a five-week school in which police dogs learn the basics of searching for evidence and suspects, tracking, obedience and protection. He was also certified in sniffing out narcotics.

Branko’s training proved to be successful in April when he detected a scent belonging to a burglary suspect who had fled from police and was hiding in a garage.

The suspect, who allegedly was part of an organized crime group targeting affluent neighborhoods, was found and arrested.

Police dogs have proven to be a “great asset” for officers, especially in searching for suspects, De Pompa said.

“They help us do our job better and we are very pleased we were able to add Branko to the ranks,” he said.

Branko’s human counterparts at the ceremony underwent decidedly different training, including a battery of background, written, physical and tactical exams.

The officers have received degrees in psychology, criminal justice, studio arts, administrative justice and sociology of law, criminology and deviance.

Wessel, a Burbank native, has dreams of becoming a training officer and sergeant. He worked two jobs before joining Glendale police.

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