A pack of vicious dogs roamed the streets of Payson last week, searching for missing drugs and dangerous suspects.
It was the 8th Annual Arizona Law Enforcement Canine Association's survival training, attended by officers and their four-legged partners from around the state.
ALECA's primary purpose, Sgt. Rod Mamero said, is to share resources and training, creating a network of canine officers statewide. Mamero, a Payson police officer, is a member of ALECA's executive board of directors and has been instrumental in bringing the statewide training seminar to Payson for the past several years.
This year, 66 teams attended the two-day training, including Payson Police Officer Les Barr and his partner, Kodiak, and Gila County Sheriff's Deputy John Finger and his partner, Dax. On average, Mamero said, the dogs in the Payson area respond to about 50 narcotics searches every year.
Officers attended seminars, then participated in 15 training exercises based on real-life scenarios that were set up in buildings and empty lots all around the Rim country.
"We worked scenarios Thursday and Friday nights," Mamero said. "The reason we work at night is because it's cooler, and because that's when the majority of canines work. We also get easier access to the businesses and schools that we use for training purposes."
The training routines included sending dogs into buildings to search for hidden suspects, area searches for hidden suspects, searching for hidden narcotics, suspect encounters, burglary encounters, "... basically, training in the things officers encounter on a fairly routine basis," he said.
This year's keynote speaker was Col. Dave Grossman, a former West Point psychology professor and retired Army colonel and an Army Ranger.
"He's a noted trainer for state, city, county and federal law enforcement agencies," Mamero said. "He served as an expert witness for the Timothy McVae bombing trial. He's written two books, 'On Killing' and 'Stop Teaching Our Children To Kill.' 'On Killing' was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. We were very fortunate to get him as a speaker."
While Grossman's schedule is typically jam-packed, Mamero said the colonel had such a good time, he and his staff decided to stay and participate in the training.
"This was the most successful training we've had yet," Mamero said. "We had outstanding support of the community, which was reflected in how well all of the scenarios went.
"All of the staff and participants remarked how friendly the community was, and what a pleasure it is to come here. We'll keep having these trainings in Payson for many years to come."