The Glendale Police Foundation let the dogs out last Saturday to help raise money and awareness for the Glendale Police Department’s K-9 Unit.
The comedy-themed fundraising event “2023 Howl at the Moon Comedy Night” helped the GPD raise more than $120,000 for the GPD K-9 Unit, which consists of three patrol dogs, Jeff, Dante and Coda, and one narcotics dog, Petey. GPD Sgt. Shawn Sholtis said the canines are vital to the department’s ability to efficiently locate suspects, search for weapons and beyond.
“The K-9 program is such an important tool for the department, not only for keeping the officers safe during searches, but also it’s a unique way that we can reach out and interact with the community,” Sholtis, the K-9 Unit supervisor, told the News-Press. “So to see all the people that came out to support the K-9 program [last] Saturday was amazing.”
This year’s Comedy Night marked the third event of its kind and according to Alex Ghazalpour, the event’s co-chair and GPF member, the event is growing every year with more than 200 attendees at the Oct. 28 event.
With comedy acts from Ron Pearson, Jack Williams (a ventriloquist featured on “America’s Got Talent”), Fritz Coleman (former NBC weatherman turned comedian), and others, the event also featured silent and live auctions. A tour of Jay Leno’s private car collection was purchased for $3,700 by the event’s title sponsors, Donnell and Rima Cameron, who donated an additional $15,000 to the K-9 Unit.
The Glendale Police Foundation provides nearly all the funding for the department’s K-9 Unit. Sholtis said the funds generated from the Comedy Night will go toward the unit’s most important needs at the time. This can include purchasing and training new dogs, monthly maintenance training for current dogs, vet bills and various pet supplies.
On average, the unit spends between $50,000 and $60,000 annually, according to Sholtis, but this can vary greatly depending on unexpected injuries or extenuating circumstances. It costs $25,000 to purchase and train a new dog.
Both Sholtis and Ghazalpour emphasized the positive effect the Comedy Night has on fostering a connection between community members and law enforcement.
“The event allowed the Police Department command staff to really humanize their role,” Ghazalpour told the News-Press. “It was so nice to see police interact with the community and kind of let their hair down. Oftentimes, people feel that the police aren’t approachable in uniform. … It really brought a humanizing effect to our police officers in the city and what they do.”
Ghazalpour gave a special shoutout to a performance by Cpt. Toby Darby, “who can sing like Lionel Richie.”
Sholtis echoed similar sentiments, calling the K-9 Unit “a tool for diplomacy” and “a nice little icebreaker” to encourage community interest in police work.
The event was also filled with lively demonstrations from the K-9 dogs including a staged “muzzle hit” on Ghazalpour, a canine bite demonstration and a controlled drug search with a planted kilo of methamphetamine underneath one of the seats which “ironically” ended up under the seat of a firefighter.
“Between the muzzle hit, the search for the kilo of methamphetamine, coupled with the bite and obedience demonstrations, it really gave folks the chance to see how much training and how much action goes into ensuring these dogs are the best of the best before they hit the streets of Glendale,” Ghazalpour said.
First published in the November 4 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.