Maricopa Police Department has retired K-9 Officer Murphy after 10 years on the job and will be replacing him with a new officer – Karma.
Karma, a 1-year-old, female Belgian Malinois joined the force July 8 and is undergoing training prior to joining Officer Jake Gomez on patrol.
Karma is a product of the Adlerhorst Police K-9 Academy in Riverside, Calif. Gomez and Karma will be leaving next week for their initial six-week training at Adlerhorst. Gomez also was Murphy’s partner. The pair will return to Maricopa for certification through the National Police Canine Association.
NPCA certification covers patrol functions only, and Gomez and Karma will also undergo narcotics training at a later date. Gomez said Karma is up to the task. “She’s got a lot of energy and loves to work,” he said.
The selection process took place at Adlerhorst in July. Police departments from around the country go to the facility for a selection event and are given a list of the canine candidates. About 30-40 police departments are on hand to evaluate the dogs and find the right fit for their particular needs.
“Karma actually was not on my list,” Gomez said. “So, as you’re testing your own dogs, you’re looking at other people testing dogs, and this was one we saw. We liked her and tested her, and she did great.”
Gomez said the bond between the human and K-9 officers is crucial to finding the best fit.
“We think about our community and what we need here, as far as the city of Maricopa goes,” Gomez said. “So, a dog that scores high in certain testing might not necessarily be what we’re looking for here. That’s definitely something we keep in mind – what we want here in our community.”
Gomez said Karma and he are bonding, and he is excited to train his new partner from the beginning.
“Murphy came from another handler, so he was already up and ready to go, so it was just me catching up with him,” said Gomez. “Having this experience with what we call a green dog, a brand-new dog, is testing but also a lot of fun at the same time.”
Murphy is now retired and living at home with Gomez, which is considered a best practice in the industry. Police Chief James Hughes said it is common because the bond between the handler and K-9 is so strong.
The new officer’s name was selected through a poster contest held in the city’s elementary schools.
“The name came from kids in the community. They got to do a poster contest in grades K-5, and they did a poster of whatever name they thought would be best,” said Sgt. Hal Koozer, the department spokesman.
The posters were displayed at MPD’s headquarters and voted on by the officers. The winning entry was provided by Ryder Kempf, a Butterfield Elementary fifth-grader in Karie Russell’s class. Koozer, Gomez and Karma will visit the school to introduce Karma to the class and thank them for the winning submission.