As police officers we learned very quickly that the most dangerous people in society are individuals who believe they have nothing to lose. Because we are called upon daily to deal with these types of individuals, it is important to know who will have your back when the storm hits.
One’s own life often depends on their partner having his back. It has been said that a dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself. So, it was only natural that K-9s would start working with police officers in protecting society.
Regarding the Houston Police Department’s first K-9 squad, The Houston Post reported, in an article by Don Moffitt, on Jan. 22, 1959, “City’s First Class of Police Dogs Bone Up for Final Exams”. Moffitt reported that after intensive training, HPD graduated seven K-9s, on Jan. 24 to begin working in Patrol. Director Harvey B. Richards and Associate Director Mrs. June L. Sutter were unpaid trainers who provided special diplomas for each dog at the graduation.
These seven dogs and their handlers immediately started their patrol duties. In their first two months of operation the dogs participated in one arrest of a suspect in a $3 lounge burglary. However, after Police Chief Carl L. Shuptrine watched the remarkable performance of his K-9 squad on graduation day, he knew they would be successful in serving the citizens of Houston.
On Feb. 25 The Post reported “Police K-9 Corps to be Feature of Rodeo Events.” Their Rodeo performance was so impressive, that on March 31 Chief Shuptrine announced he had asked City Council to approve an additional $8,100 for the police budget. The additional money would be earmarked to harness 13 additional dogs.
It is unknown whether council approved Chief Shuptrine’s request and the brief period of operation was not really a true indicator of future success. There was one thing certain about these new K-9 partners: they were extremely loyal to their handlers and immensely popular with Houston’s citizens.
The popular K-9 squads have remained in continuous operation since their initial beginning in early 1959.
During my career I have witnessed the effectiveness of the K-9 squads during riots, demonstrations, burglary scene investigations, police chases and many other police duties. It is my belief they are extremely effective and a value to the citizens of Houston. Their public relations value is so high it cannot even be measured.
I have watched every K-9 demonstration in total amazement and again this year the Department’s K-9 Unit performed at the Houston Rodeo and were very popular with the crowds.
When researching material for this article, I came across a promotional photo of Officer Johanna G. Bad with Houston K-9 Alpos. The photo is such a positive image for HPD. The picture was taken by my good friend Mike McCoy when he was a Houston officer. Mike retired from the Department and is now a captain with the Fulshear Police Department.
HPD has always had some pretty popular and famous police officers like Officer W. C. “Tiny” Romund and Officer Ken Garnett, of the Kitirik TV show fame on Channel 13.
However, due to social media, Alpos’ fame and popularity was greater and more widespread than other Houston police officers. Alpos had his own Facebook page and a blog with regular celebrity followers like Taylor Swift, Kendal Jenner and one of the Kardashians.
Officer Greg W. Smith was Alpos’ partner and he can attest to Alpos’ popularity. Everywhere they went Alpos was ready to pose for the camera and had a special quality that made people like him. He was a model for many HPD promotions and was always in demand for public appearances. Once you met Alpos, he would win your heart.
Officer Smith also saw the serious side of his partner. Alpos loved Smith more than he loved life itself and he was willing to die for his partner if necessary. In July 2009, Officer Smith and Alpos were on patrol in 1710’s beat. They answered a burglary in progress call to an apartment complex and shortly after arrival they observed a burglar exiting through a broken window with stolen property in both hands.
The suspect was given commands in both English and Spanish to get down on the ground. Unknown to the officers, the burglar had a screwdriver in his hand and did not intend to be arrested.
Officer Smith released Alpos to gain control of the suspect and the burglar stabbed Alpos several times with a screwdriver. Although the burglar was now attempting to kill Alpos, he hung on to his suspect. Officer Smith moved in to help and the suspect stabbed the human officer in the chest with the screwdriver.
Fortunately Smith was wearing his body armor and the screwdriver only ripped his shirt and did not penitrate the vest. The suspect had now turned his full attention toward the officer and was trying to stab him in an unprotected area. Wounded, Alpos was now fighting to save his partner’s life. Fearing for his own life, Officer Smith had no other recourse than the use of deadly force.
Award Winning K9
Smith drew his service weapon and fired one shot into the suspect’s chest area. The shot was fatal and the struggle ended. Alpos was taken to the veterinary hospital where he was treated and eventially made a full recovery from his wounds and returned to active duty.
Police Chief Charles A. McClelland Jr. presented the Hostile Engagement Award to Officer Smith and his K-9 partner Alpos. Eventially Alpos honorably retired from the Houston Police Department and has been allowed to live out his remaining years with the family he loves so dearly.
He is currently 12 years old, which is old for a working dog.
After Alpos’ retirement he was diagnosed with cancer and needed expensive surgery and treatment. Officer Smith got his own money together to pay the hospital bill, but donations from Alpos’ many fans started pouring in. The donations more than paid for Alpos’ surgery, with money left over to pay for an MRI for another HPD K-9.
HPD currently has 18 K-9 units assigned to Patrol. Dogs have also proven useful in narcotics investigations and in the detection of explosives.
HPD has additional dogs assigned to the Narcoctic Division and the Bomb Squad. The deployment of dogs in police work has proven to be very effective and the K-9 is extremely loyal to his handler partner.
Police officers have learned their K-9 partner can always be counted on to come to their aid when their lives are in danger.