Summary of K-9 program
In its Drug Interdiction efforts, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is budgeted for two canine Teams (Canine Officer and Service Dog as one team) to be assigned to each CDCR institution, for a total of 68 Canine Teams. Each canine team shall attend and successfully pass the Department’s 280-hour course of training, and are specially trained to detect narcotics and contraband (cell phones and tobacco). The mission of the canine unit is to combat the introduction of illegal drugs and contraband into CDCR facilities and reduce the overall level of drug/contraband and criminal activity within the inmate population, thereby enhancing the safety and security of the institution.
Additionally, at the completion of the Department’s 280-hour Canine Academy, a Passive Response Certified Narcotic/Contraband Detection Team with a minimum of six months of experience shall be considered for air scan training and certification. All air scan service dogs must attend and successfully pass the Department’s 120-hour course of training in passive canine air scan searching and then certify in the methods of passive canine air scan searching. Upon successful certification, the passive canine air scan team shall be able to complete passive air scans on people. There are currently 16 canines certified to complete passive air scans.
In a collaborative effort, Regional Canine Sergeants coordinate with institutional custody staff to schedule random or targeted searches throughout the state. In addition, Canine Teams provide assistance to CDCR’s Division of Adult Parole Operations and the Office of Correctional Safety. Canine Teams also assist local Law Enforcement Agencies by conducting searches of suspected drug houses during search warrant operations. Periodically, Canine Teams may provide public demonstrations (e.g., schools, Boy Scouts, etc.) to further public relations. A typical day for a Canine Team may consist of random or targeted searches at their assigned institution, search operations with other CDCR Divisions or law enforcement agencies, or participating in narcotic/contraband detection training exercises.
CDCR Officer and K-9 Killed in Car Crash
On March 25, 2013, Correctional Officer Gilbert Cortez and his K-9 Mattie died when their car went off southbound Highway 79 and rolled over. They and four other K-9 teams in separate cars were driving south on State Highway 79 in San Diego County on their way to conduct a search of La Cima Fire Camp.
Officer Cortez started his career with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation on Sept. 17, 1990. He was first assigned to the California Institution for Men in Chino. He transferred to Calipatria State Prison on Oct. 29, 1992, and subsequently found a home with the California Rehabilitation Center on Oct. 29, 2001.
His K-9 partner Mattie was a Belgian Malinois, donated by a private citizen in the San Diego area. She started service with Officer Cortez in August 2011 and was certified to search for contraband and narcotics.