The Payson Police Department will host the 15th annual Canine Officer Survival Seminar this week, from July 16 to 19 at the Payson Multi Event Center.
Over the years, the event has resulted in significant profits for Payson area merchants and businesses, and indications are this year will be no different.
Expectations are for more than 100 teams from across the country to be in Payson for the event.
"Over the past 15 years, over 700 teams have attended this event here in Payson," said Payson Police Academy Coordinator Sgt. Rod Mamero. "This is a significant thing for the community."
A public demonstration will be held at no charge and is scheduled to start at the Event Center tonight, Tuesday, from 7 to 8 p.m., with gates opening at 6 p.m.
"This is our second year of doing the public demonstrations and last year was such a huge success that I am confident this year will be a really big one, too," Mamero said.
Public demonstrations of dog and handler skills were added to the event last year, Mamero said. "After about six years of people asking Payson Police to give demonstrations, we finally gave in to popular request last year and added them to the event."
Planned demonstrations include detection (finding drugs/contraband), suspect apprehension and obedience.
Payson Police said a "noticeable increase in police presence" can be expected by area residents and visitors during the training seminar, since officers from various agencies across the country will be flooding into the Payson area for the event.
All of the participants who stay in Payson will bring revenue for area businesses. Participants will need lodging, food, entertainment and possibly transportation to and from various locations -- all of which could translate into economic gain for Payson.
Mamero said the event is primarily attended by agencies from the Southwest region, but it is open to any agency in North America.
"We have had teams from all over the country, including from Canada, register to attend," Mamero said. "Right now, we have between 80 and 120 agencies just from the Southwest this year.
"We have instructors from 12 different agencies attending and while they are paid by their departments to attend the seminar, the Town of Payson pays absolutely nothing to have them come here and participate in the training and public demonstrations.
"There have been a couple over the years that we had no idea were going to attend. They have just showed up and registered when they got here."
Mamero also said training scenarios, which will not be open to the public, will be held at various area locations for attending teams July 16 to 19 and will include suspect apprehension, drug/contraband detection and discipline/obedience training.
Mamero said training for K-9 officers is just as rigorous as it is for their human counterparts.
"It's actually probably more stressful on the handlers than the dogs," he said. "(The dogs') tails are always wagging when they are in training. It's the human officers who come away from it all exhausted. The dogs are just having fun.
"Whether they are training or actually catching bad guys or finding drugs, whatever they are doing, their tails are wagging and you can tell they are having fun and love what they are doing."
Mamero said he got into K-9 training about 15 years ago.
"When I got into the K-9 units, (members of the Payson Police Department) had the idea in our heads for (the annual training seminar) and said to ourselves, ‘Payson is a nice place, let's do it.'"
"The K-9 officers you partner up with become just like any other police officer. You become very attached and protective of your partner."
K-9 units generally enjoy the same privileges and responsibilities as human police do, but with less of a budget.
"Our K-9 officers do get body armor or bulletproof vests, but those all come through donations from the public," Mamero said. "There is a young person in Tucson, I believe, who raises money every year on his own to purchase safety equipment for K-9 units in the state, but obviously the funds from that kind of source is very limited."
Mamero said body armor, whether used for K-9 units or human officers, must be replaced after any contact with a deadly weapon because the integrity of the armor could be compromised.
According to Mamero, body armor (for K-9s and humans) can cost as much as $4,000 to replace.
For more information on the event, call Mamero at (928) 474-5242 ext. 210.