David Mendez

RBPD introduces bomb-vapor sniffing K9

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City Attorney Michael Webb, members of the Redondo Beach School Board Madison Laster, Brad Waller, Michael Christensen, Brad Serkin, David Witkin and Redondo Beach Police Chief Keith Kauffman stand behind K9 officer Balton and his handler, Officer Dave Arnold. Photo by David Mendez

City Attorney Michael Webb, members of the Redondo Beach School Board Madison Laster, Brad Waller, Michael Christensen, Brad Serkin, David Witkin and Redondo Beach Police Chief Keith Kauffman stand behind K9 officer Balton and his handler, Officer Dave Arnold. Photo by David Mendez

by David Mendez

Redondo Beach Police Chief Keith Kauffman and members of his department’s K9 unit visited the Redondo Beach School Board on Tuesday night, introducing board members to a team that includes a dog that’s among the first of its kind in the South Bay.

“We’re building quite the K9 team here in the South Bay, and we’ve got a few unique new assets to share,” Kauffman said.

New RBPD K9 officer Balton, a yellow labrador, is a VaporWake trained dog, trained to recognize the odor of explosives, including firearms ammunition and bomb-making materials, that may come off of people in crowds.

“Rather than just fixating on an object, he searches the air and the people around it,” Kauffman said. “Now we have a dog that everyone loves and would love to pet that can be in and amongst people to smell odors coming off of them that could be precursors to a bomb.”

Balton’s appearance seemed to play a factor even among those in attendance at the meeting, drawing fawning reactions when four previous German Shepard K9 officers drew silence.

Balton and his handler, Officer Dave Arnold, join four other K9-and-handler teams. Balton’s unique VaporWake training complements the explosive and narcotics training of the other teams.

“From what I hear from my daughter, kids have learned to know and understand what’s going on,” Kauffman said of the narcotic-detecting dog’s presence at Redondo Union High School.

Kauffman admitted that the idea of bombings in Redondo Beach is a difficult subject to broach, but like the Run-Hide-Fight active shooter response training that’s been instituted throughout the district, he feels it’s necessary.

“Things can happen and the world has changed,” Kauffman said, noting that one of the first events Balton worked was the September 17 L.A. Kings 5K run in Riviera Village.

“It was a popular event with thousands of people, and he was there, doing what he does best,” Kauffman said. “And that same day, a bomb went off at a 5K run in New Jersey.”

RBPD’s relationship with the school district is particularly important to its mission to serve the community, Kauffman said. “We’re headed in the right direction, and we believe the district is the wave of the future…if we, as a department are around kids from kindergarten through high school, they’ll see us as an asset and not as an enemy.”

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