Beyond the Badge, Dog News

Meet two women‑led CDCR K‑9 teams

Two women K-9 teams with the words Manae and Tank, Ashley and Villain.
Manae Hackett Contreras with Tank, left, and Ashley Brockmire with Villain are two of the six women-led CDCR K-9 teams.

K-9 teams are assets to institutions, partner agencies

Inside CDCR recently caught up with two of CDCR’s six women-led K-9 teams.

First up, we will meet Ashley Brockmire, K-9 Officer at Sierra Conservation Center (SCC) and Villain, a Dutch Shepard.

Then, we will catch up with Manae Hackett Contreras of High Desert State Prison (HDSP) and Tank, a Belgian Malinois.

Highly trained and endlessly valuable, these women and their K-9 partners are dedicated to ensuring the safety and security of an institution through contraband interdiction efforts. K-9 teams are highly effective in sniffing out contraband that can’t be easily detected by the human eye.

Each K-9 team, consisting of a carefully selected officer and dog, goes through seven weeks of intensive training in the Department’s academy. Each institution has two K-9 teams. They report directly to the Investigative Services Unit (ISU) within the institution as well as provide mutual aid to other institutions and outside agencies.

Ashley Brockmire and K-9 partner Villain

Ashley and her K-9, Villain, have been partners for just over three years. Together, they play a key role in keeping contraband like controlled substances and cell phones out of SCC.

Ashley’s career with CDCR began in 2019, where she has worked as a gang investigator and court liaison in the ISU. A close friend was a K-9 officer for the Department and inspired Ashley to follow suit.

“I knew I wanted to be an officer, but quickly realized that K-9 work was what really interested me,” she said. “Having the ability to train and work with a K-9 from start to finish and getting to watch the dog succeed alongside me through our careers has been the greatest achievement thus far.”

Villain and Ashley are like two peas in a pod. They spend every day together, on and off institution grounds. When not at work, Villain is a member of Ashley’s family and lives at home with her.

Villain is always excited to hop in the car and head to work. “Villain loves his job. We have a relationship where all he wants to do is please, so he looks forward to getting to work and accomplishing his mission,” said Ashley.

When not contributing to contraband interdiction efforts at SCC, Ashley and Villain assist outside agencies in warrants and searches.

Their hard work together has certainly paid off. Last year, Ashley earned the Angels Camp and Murphy’s Rotary Officer of the Year Award.

“From day one in her career with CDCR, Ashley has devoted herself fully to public service,” said ISU Lieutenant Ricardo Jauregui, who recommended her for the award. “Ashley always accepts the challenge head-on and excels in her duties.”

When not working, Villain and Ashley love to go on runs and long car drives together. Villain’s favorite part of the day is his after-work playtime.

Manae Hackett Contreras and K-9 partner Tank

Manae graduated from the correctional academy in late 2018, reporting to the California Correctional Center (CCC) soon after.  She worked various positions at CCC, including a temporary position within the ISU, before eventually serving as a K-9 officer.

Today, she helps support contraband interdiction efforts at High Desert State Prison (HDSP) alongside her K-9, Tank.

Manae says that she had no idea the K-9 position even existed when she first joined CDCR. She recalls seeing one of the K-9 handlers at CCC, Sergeant Samaniego with her “goofy” black lab, conducting searches throughout the institution.

At that moment, she was completely intrigued. “I remember wanting to be just like her,”

Taking advantage of any opportunity to learn more about the position, Manae always asked to shadow Samaniego and her K-9 when they were on the yard.

In 2020, she applied and was accepted into the K-9 academy and partnered with Tank. Together, they successfully worked their way through the academy.

Her favorite career moment with Tank so far has been their first dorm contraband detection together. Tank alerted Manae to several controlled substances hidden under a locker. She recalls Tank barking, trembling, scratching the locker, and drooling to get to what was there.

“I don’t think I’ve ever felt so happy at work in my whole career. It was the most rewarding feeling to see my dog find something for the first time in the field. I gained a lot of confidence in Tank that day, and we only improved from there on out,” said Manae. 

She credits her supportive team for helping her and Tank be successful. She especially notes her former ISU partners Associate Warden Bobby Wheeler, Lieutenant Geoff Gulbransen, Sergeant Gene Chamberlin and the Northern Region K-9 Team.

Her advice for anyone considering an atypical career path? “I highly encourage anyone in the department, young or old, to never be afraid to try something new,” she says.  

“We work in a sometimes not-so-favorable environment, so trying to find something that sparks a light is extremely important. Being a part of ISU and the K-9 Unit, I’ve been able to gain so many lasting friendships with people all over the state. I’ve also learned so many cool things that I didn’t expect in this career.”

Tank spends every day with Monae and her family, on and off institution grounds.

Outside of work, Tank likes to go on walks and chase balls. Tank also loves his pre-work ritual: dancing.  “You know those videos you see of the dogs dancing with their humans? That’s him.  His favorite music lately has been anything Pitbull. We have mini-dance parties before work,” says Manae.

By Alia Cruz, Information Officer
Office of Public and Employee Communications

Learn more about CDCR’s K-9 programs.

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