Watsonville's newest police officer gets paid in belly rubs and dog biscuits.
Ellex, a 2 1/2-year-old German shepherd, joined the police force this fall as Officer Mish Radich's new partner, thanks to a generous donation from the Watsonville Police Assistance Fund.
"Really, we had no money to pay for another canine," Watsonville Police Chief Manny Solano said, extolling the benefits of police dogs: searching for fugitives, discarded items or drugs; officer protection and community relations.
Underscoring his point, people walking into the police station during a casual press conference Thursday morning paused to let Ellex sniff their hands and get a pat on the head.
Ellex joins 5-year-old Dorro, the K9 partner of Master Officer Eddie Santana, on the police force. Having two canines means there will be a police dog working every day of the week, Solano said.
"We're just very grateful now to hae a dog on both sides of the week," Solano said.
Radich is thrilled to be a K9 handler.
"It's one of the things I've wanted to do for a long time now," said Radich, who's been a WPD officer for almost four years. "He works with me. He's with me 24 hours a day."
Ellex lives with Radich and is best friends with the officer's other dog, another German shepherd named Mandy.
"They really become part of the family," Solano said.
The department almost got a German shepherd called Elmo, Neighbors said. Ellex should earn a little more respect on the streets, if in name only.
For now, Ellex is a protection dog. He's out on patrol with Radich but has yet to get his first bite, a moment that will be a good assessment of the dog's abilities, according to his handler. Radich said he looks forward to expanding his new partner's skill set. There's a tracking class in February they may participate it.
, ponied up about $11,000 for Ellex and his training thusfar.
"We basically exist to raise funds because of the budget shortages," said Cory Stephanson, a WPAF board member.
The non-profit has been around for 15 years but ramped up efforts about a year ago when budget cuts hit the department. This fall, it sent two police officers to a gang conference in Southern California.
WPAF puts on a variety of fundraising events, such as Italian dinner in February, and recently started selling "Hug a Hero" stuffed teddy bears and puppies. The toys are available for $10 each at the police station.
"Everything goes back to the community," said Bill Neighbors, also a WPAF board member and a former city councilor.