K-9 Officer Karma
Ryder Kempf was the winner of the Maricopa Police Department's contest in local grade schools to name the city's new K-9 officer. Kempf came up with the name Karma, which then won a vote among police personnel as the new officer's name. Photo by Ian Roberds

The Maricopa Police Department this week introduced its newest officer-in-training, K-9 Karma. The 1-year-old Belgian Malinois is replacing Murphy, who retired after 10 years patrolling the streets of Maricopa.

MPD reached out to Maricopa Unified School District to see how the two might collaborate to name the new K-9 officer, who was selected July 8 from a class at Adlerhorst Police K-9 Academy in Riverside, Calif.

MUSD conducted a district-wide poster contest for all elementary school students, and Ryder Kempf of Karie Russell’s fifth-grade class at Butterfield Elementary School was selected as the winner for the name Karma.

Kempf said the name came from a search for a name for his own family’s new dog.

“Since (my mother) owns a yoga studio in New Mexico, she was looking for, like, yoga dog names,” Kempf said. “She found Karma, and I thought that was a good name. She thought that was more of a boy dog’s name, but I didn’t, so she named our dog Elle, after the person from Legally Blonde.”

Kempf’s poster survived classroom, grade, and school competitions, with those winners being chosen by school staff.

Butterfield Principal Janel Hildick said the front office staff voted on the poster that would represent the school – not an enviable task with entries submitted by the school’s 645 students. She said she was happy her students had the opportunity to participate in the contest.

“I thought it was a great way to start the school year, with something fun,” she said. “They get to use their artistic skills, and the excitement of the possibility of winning the contest got the kids excited.”

Karma winning poster
The winning poster in MUSD and MPD’s contest to select the name for the city’s new K-9 officer. Photo by Ian Roberds

MPD spokesman Sgt. Hal Koozer said Karma was a runaway winner in the voting among the police officers and staff.

“We had posters all up and down the hallways at the PD,” Koozer said. “I think some of the schools sent over every single entry they had. But the Karma poster was the one with all the check marks of the officers voting for it.”

MUSD spokesperson Mishell Terry said the collaboration with MPD was wonderful – but nothing new.

“We have a very good partnership with MPD,” Terry said. “They work with us closely in emergency situations as well as situations like this. I know they’ve participated with us in programs like the community basketball program and Shop with a Cop and also for Red Ribbon Day.”

Karma’s stay in town will be short-lived. He and his partner, Officer Jake Gomez, leave Tuesday for Adlerhorst for a six-week training course for Karma to learn to become a patrol K-9.

Once they return from the training, Karma will go through the certification process to become a full-fledged K-9 patrol officer before hitting the streets. She will undergo additional training later to learn how to deal with narcotics arrests and other specialized situations.

MPD Chief James Hughes said Gomez and Karma will be on regular patrol soon.

“They don’t sit around the office waiting for a special situation to come up that requires a K-9 officer,” Hughes said. “They are on the streets every day like any other patrol unit.”