Meet Golden Cisco

Drug-sniffing pooch joins the Youngtown force
Story and photos by Lily Leung, The Arizona Republic, January 29, 2008

Walk toward Cisco and he will likely nuzzle against your leg and playfully lick your palms. But as Youngtown Police Chief Dan Connelly puts it, the agency's narcotics dog "throws people completely off guard." His affable exterior belies his fierce instinct to search, specifically for drugs - marijuana, heroine, methamphetamine and cocaine.

Since joining the Police Department in late February, the golden retriever's skills have led Youngtown police to 30 drug-related arrests and close to $11,000 in stolen goods and cash, said his handler, Youngtown police Sgt. David Evans.

Although Youngtown boasts only 14 police officers and a small budget, Evans felt strongly about getting a drug-sniffing canine aboard.

Having Cisco especially helps with traffic stops along Grand Avenue, a major thoroughfare for drug trafficking. Narcotics dogs are also known for their speed: Where it would take police officers 20 to 30 minutes to search a car for drugs, it takes a trained pooch three to five minutes, Evans explained.

"I thought, 'If I can get a dog, and you turn me loose (with him), we can make a difference'," said Evans, who has had an extensive history working undercover drug busts in the state.
Connelly said the problem with getting a drug-sniffing dog was money. The City Council didn't have a budget set aside for a narcotics dog.

As a result, the year-and-a-half old golden retriever was partially paid for by money impounded from criminal enterprises through the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations act, also known as RICO.

It cost $6,000 to train Evans and his canine partner. That amount did not cover food, his leash and other accessories.

Connelly said the Police Department was fortunate enough to get an "outpouring of support" from local homeowners associations, which discovered the agency was trying to acquire a narcotics dog.

Agua Fria Ranch's HOA gave $2,500, while Spanish Gardens' HOA came up with $1,500, he said.

With that money, police were able to purchase him from Waddell Kennels, which provides drug-sniffing dogs.

imageThe business has trained narcotics dogs for the Mesa Police Department, the Wickenburg Police Department, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, Pinal County Sheriff's Department and the Corrections Corporation of America.

Cisco spent four months earning his National Narcotics Detection Dog Association certification.

"The great thing is, it didn't cost the city anything," Connelly said.

Two weeks into the job, Cisco made his first bust when he found an ounce of methamphetamine, two ounces of cocaine and $600 in $20 bills, Evans said. In another case, his nose for drugs led police to $4,000 in drug money, which was poured back into the department's RICO account, allowing police to buy guns and other necessities.

"We see drug-sniffing dogs as a luxury," Connelly said. "But in these days, it's almost a necessity."


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