Canine Unit

About the Unit

The Richmond Police Department Canine Unit has a long and proud history of both canines and handlers. The Richmond Police Department Canine Unit was formed in 1961 and is second only to the Stockton Police Department as the longest continuous canine program in Northern California.

In the early 1960’s the City of Richmond was an industrious area with a number of large commercial buildings. The Canine Unit was formed because the canines could search the large buildings quickly with only the assistance of the handler and another officer. Before the Canine Unit was formed, several officers would take long periods of time searching these buildings for potential suspects, and not be available for other calls. The Canine Unit today continues to provide this function.

Sergeant M. Birch (retired) became the coordinator of the Canine Unit in the early 1970’s and molded the unit into one of the most highly respected Canine Teams in the country. Sergeant Birch continued as the coordinator until his retirement in 2004. The Canine Unit will always be in gratitude for Sergeant Birch’s dedicated and tireless service to the unit.

Deputy Chief L. Ritter, a former handler, became the Commander of the Richmond Police Department Canine Unit in 1994. Another former handler, Lieutenant S. Pickett, is the current Commander and manages the administration of the unit. Other notable former handlers are Chief E. Duncan (retired), Chief C. Bennett (retired), Captain R. Howard (retired), Sergeant M. Birch (retired), Sergeant D. Browne (retired), Sergeant E. Sousa (retired) and Officer M. Peixoto.

The present Richmond Police Department Canine Unit consists of four Canine Teams (Handler and Canine), one supervisor (coordinator) and one commander. Presently there are four Belgian Malinois in the unit. All the canines used by the Richmond Police Department are cross-trained in narcotics detection.

The Belgian Malinois breed has been used by the Richmond Police Department since 1988 when Officer D. Hembree was assigned Canine Lando as his partner. Officer D. Hembree has had the longest career in the unit.  Until December 2010, Ofc Hembree was partnered with his third Belgian Malinois, Canine Maverick.  He continues to work with the K9 Unit as a trainer.

Other notable handlers who had lengthy service in the unit were Officer G. Gibson (retired), Officer R. Smith (retired) ,Officer J. Hill (retired) and Officer W. Cantrell (retired).  Both Officer Gibson and Officer Smith were in the unit over eight years.  Officer Hill and Canine Nero were a team for more than eleven years as well as Officer Cantrell and Canine Arrow.

The Belgian Malinois breed and Dutch Shepherd breed has worked well with the Richmond Police Department Canine Unit. Both breeds have a long career span; they are very athletic, even-tempered and have a high play drive.

The primary function of the Canine Unit is to help the in searching for and tracking of felony suspects who have fled the scene of a crime, searching for evidence, narcotics detection and occasionally,  and to conduct searches for lost children and/or elderly people.
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K9 Demonstrations

All the handlers in the Canine Unit enjoy working with the public and frequently conduct demonstrations. The handlers enjoy meeting the public and answering questions concerning the unit and canines in general. The canines enjoy all the attention they get from the children who attend the demonstrations.

If you are interested in arranging a canine demonstration for your group, please email Sgt. N. Lonso to make your request.

Brad Moody Memorial Fund

On October 4, 2008 K-9 Handler Brad Moody was involved in a collision which ended his watch.  Brad will be sorely missed among his family, friends, co-workers, and especially his peers in the K-9 Corps.  Brad’s partner, Rico, lived with Brad’s family until he passed in 2010.

A fund to benefit the Moody family has been established at Mechanics Bank.  Donations may be made to the “The Memorial Fund for Officer Brad Moody” and dropped off at any Mechanics Bank location.  Visit the Brad Moody Memorial webpage.

Contact Information

Program Supervisor

Sergeant N. Lonso
    Thursday - Sunday
    3:00 PM to 1:00 AM

K9 Handlers and their K9 Partners

Officer D. Reina and Ranger
    510-621-1212 x7033
    Tuesday - Friday
    6:30 AM to 4:30 PM
Officer K. Palma and Ronin
    510-621-1212 x7229
    Thursday - Sunday
     3:00 PM to 1:00 AM
Officer M. Vallerga and Ruger
     510-621-1212 x7153
     Monday - Thursday
      9:30 PM to 7:30 AM


Officer M. Brown and Odin
      510-621-1212 x
      Saturday - Tuesday
      6:30 AM to 4:30 PM


Officer E. Moczulski and Isshak
510-621-1212 x
Saturday - Tuesday
6:30 AM to 4:30 PM