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By Joe Orlando, CDCR Public Information Officer
Office of Public and Employee Communications

Photos by CDCR Staff Photographer Eric Owens

Some of CDCR’s finest officers put on quite a show recently for students at Florin High School in Sacramento.

Finn, Grizzly and Bentley, accompanied as always by their handlers, Correctional Officers Jimmy Chastain, Kenneth Jacquionet and David Rosario, put their best feet and paws forward as a thank you to Florin High teacher Carlos Garcia and students in his Legal Careers classes who helped set up hundreds of chairs at this year’s CDCR Medal of Valor (MOV) ceremony.

All three K-9 teams are from California State Prison-Solano (SOL).

“We just wanted to thank all of you for all your hard work in preparing for this year’s Medal of Valor,” Rosario told the young gathering.

MOV is CDCR’s annual awards ceremony in which custody and non-custody staff from throughout the state are recognized for service above and beyond the call of duty. This year nearly 100 employees were honored for bravery and exceptional service, and the ceremony took months to plan. The students played a vital role, helping set up the room into the wee hours the night before the ceremony.

The students who helped with MOV were also presented letters of recognition signed by state Sen. Richard Pan.

Garcia said when speakers come to talk to his classes, it allows the students to see and hear about careers they might be interested in.

“It’s just good for the kids to hear about what all the career options are for them out there,” Garcia said. “Events like this give the kids the ability to imagine what’s possible for them.”

The three Labs demonstrated their outstanding sniffing skills for the students. At two years old, Grizzly is one of the newest members of the K-9 team. He was joined by 2-year-old Finn and Bentley, a seasoned veteran at 3 years old.

After the stars of the show sniffed and found all of the hidden drugs, phones and tobacco in a matter of seconds, the students began peppering the officers with questions.

“How long does it take to train them?”

“Do you choose your dog?”

“Are they considered officers?”

“Are all the dogs male?”

“What do they eat?”

“Can you take them home?”

“How many years can they work?”

“How do you know when they’re ready to retire?”

The K-9 handlers were very patient with the students and answered every question. They also provided information on CDCR job opportunities..

“There are so many jobs you can do at CDCR,” Rosario explained. “You can work in the prisons as correctional officers, correctional counselors, caseworkers, community resource managers, and that’s just in the prisons.”

There are currently 49 K-9 teams at prisons throughout the state. The dogs are trained to detect the presence of the odor of marijuana, heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine. In addition, some hand-selected dogs are trained to detect the odor of tobacco and cell phones.

There are two separate types of CDCR K-9 teams: active alert dogs, who bark when they find contraband, and passive alert dogs, who are trained to sit when alerting their handler.

The officers also told the students just how important the dogs are in the prisons. A K-9 can sniff out 200 cells in 20 minutes looking for illegal contraband. It would take several correctional officers a few days to do the same thing.

Judging by the round of applause at the end, it was safe to say the students and others in attendance appreciated the K-9 teams and left with a new understanding of just how important they are in controlling dangerous contraband inside state prisons.