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Police Dog Sniffs Out 3 Pounds of Gift-Wrapped Pot

Novato police dog Metz and handler Jeff Ames came across a marijuana stash during a traffic stop Saturday night.

NOVATO, CA -- One of the local narcotics-trained police dogs got a stiff whiff of the ganga when his handler made a traffic stop Saturday night on Highway 101. The result? Recovery of three pounds of marijuana wrapped as Christmas gifts and worth about $10,000, according to Novato police.

Metz, a Belgian malinois breed, detected the drugs after officer Jeff Ames pulled over a car at 9:51 p.m. near the Alameda del Prado exit on 101, according to Lt. Oliver Collins. Ames smelled pot as soon as he contacted the driver, Hubert Herman Miller, 39 of San Jose, who had been pulled over under suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, Collins said.

Ames called on Metz to search the vehicle, and the dog zeroed in on two large boxes wrapped in Christmas wrapping paper. Ames found more than three pounds of processed marijuana in the packages.

Miller, who works in auto sales, was arrested at 11:07 p.m. and booked at Marin County Jail. He faces felony charges of transportation and possession of marijuana for the purposes of sale.

Novato police have three narcotics-trained police dogs — Metz, Lex and Ingo. They are often deployed during traffic stops and searches when drugs are suspected.

The department expanded its canine force from two dogs and handlers to three in August 2011 after a fundraising campaign. The office of Marin County Supervisor Judy Arnold donated $7,000 to the cause and a grassroots group called Pennies or Police Dogs raised about $7,000, prompting then-chief Joseph Kreins to approve the purchase of a third dog. Since then, new Chief Jim Berg sent the dogs and handlers through narcotics training at $3,800 per team thanks to Pennies for Police Dogs and other donors.

Belgian malinois are slightly smaller than German shepherds. Berg said the dogs, which cost $8,200 each, are preferred because of advantages in agility, durability and overall health reasons. A typical police dog works about six years before retiring from duty.

The canine program was a target of city budget cuts in 2009, but the Novato City Council opted to trim costs elsewhere and keep the dogs, who today are used in searches all over Marin County and occasionally Sonoma County.

"Novato Police Department is ever vigilant in removing dangerous drugs from our city streets and continues to use police canines to make the community safer," Collins said in a release.

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Al Dugan December 23, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Chester, so glad you brought up Ms. Arnold office giving $7,000. Ms. Arnold gave $7,000 of tax payers money from the only slush fund in California that allows politicians to give away tax payers money and take credit. The Marin Civil Grand Jury in 2001 (see report on Marin County Web site) called for this fund to be eliminated as it had obvious patronage use by supervisors. The supervisors ignored this recommendation, the definition of hubris.
Chester B. Henry December 23, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Here goes Dugan and we all know where his nose is . He now goes back to 2001 and a report . You are once again talking after the fact . What have you personally been doing since 2001 to change that report ? May I remind you and your little group of know it all people/posters District 5 Supervisor has one vote and Not Five for one person to change anything. What part of that are you having trouble with ?
Tina McMillan December 23, 2012 at 07:29 PM
Chester Let it go. What ever bone you have to pick with me, isn't it time to start over? It's Christmas. Lets say "Thank You" to the people that serve our community. There are so many that do so every day without our even knowing. Toni and the Novato Police Department deserve our thanks. That was my point. You're right, other people also donated to Pennies for Police Dogs. I know I did. You may have too along with other Novato community members. So we have a lot to be grateful for. Now maybe we can set aside our differences and focus on the things we have in common. I am willing to try, are you?
Chester B. Henry December 23, 2012 at 07:57 PM
Tina , I have no bone to pick with anyone. You are correct as I also gave money to the Pennies for police dogs. The problem i have is the postings on here are not the truth by some posters . They read half a story and then post half the truth . If you think i am sticking up for any supervisor, I can honestly tell you I did not vote for any Marin County supervisor in any election as i only own a Business in Novato and live in Sonoma county . I do read Novato patch and think maybe people need to use the birth name they were given so the garbage postings are stopped . Happy Holidays to all
Tina McMillan December 23, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Thanks Chester. Mine is my birth name. It does make me think before hitting the submit button. I understand how you feel. I keep thinking there is a better way to discuss these issues and still remain respectful of each others beliefs. We have to keep trying. Patch is ultimately an experiment in free speech. It gives us all an opportunity to discuss our views. Happy Holidays to you too. Take care.
Greg December 23, 2012 at 09:13 PM
My god, what a waste of police resources. A complete waste of time. And money. That guy is in no way poisoning or corrupting our youth. He's a 39 year old white guy from San Jose who was probably just going to sell the pot to his friends his age. He doesn't deserve to be arrested and harassed by the Novato Police, the most incompetent police force this side of the Mississippi. Go ahead, be proud of some dude with a badge and a puppy. He sure did clean up our streets!.... Yeah right. Marijuana is not, has never been, and never will be an actual problem that the police have to get involved in. If you don't want your sheltered suburban child from Novato to smoke pot, then educate them and tell them the ramifications of smoking it. Otherwise keep your police dog noses out of everyone else's business and go about your life.
Greg December 23, 2012 at 09:17 PM
Dangerous drugs.... HAH!
Tina McMillan December 23, 2012 at 10:40 PM
The man was pulled over on suspicion of being under the influence. While I agree pot busts are not changing anyone's use I don't want people who are loaded on the road. Until we eliminate prohibition of marijuana it is subject to the same laws as other drugs. While I don't consider weed risk free, it is the idea of people driving high that most concerns me. We have had enough injury accidents and deaths due to drug and alcohol use associated with driving that we need the police to be on top any suspicious actions. This guy put himself in everyone's business when he got behind the wheel of a car. It's his own foolishness if he gets busted for breaking the law.
SHROYER FOR SUPERVISOR 2014 December 25, 2012 at 08:21 PM
Hillary Clinton once said, "It takes a village to raise a child." It has taken a village--the city of Novato--- to raise funds to buy our third K9 and to have all three dogs narcotics trained. Per the NPD, this has never been done before in the history of Novato. The Pennies for Police Dogs Campaign has now raised approx $15,000 dollars-- not including the donations from the county's Community Service Funds/ Taxpayer dollars, Novato Rotaries and senior groups. Fundraising efforts continue. We need funds for emergency services for our three K9's----- which we do not have at this time. The Good People of Novato and beyond have made this happen. It just took my son and I to alert the community of the need for a third K9 and narcotics training for all three dogs and to ask for money for the K9 program. Public Safety is of utmost importance. Thank you Officer Ames and K9 Metz for a job well done. Thank you Novato for your continued support for The Pennies for Police Dog Campaign! Keep those pennies coming!
Craig Belfor December 26, 2012 at 01:07 PM
Amazing! Someone with a fake name is actually making sense. Al sez that Judy Arnold kicked in $7000 from the famous slush fund so we get more strip searches than strip clubs, but the real cost is the manpower. I had a neighbor once who borrowed my lawn mower. Then he asked again, and again. I realized he never needed to buy his own if he could keep using mine. It's a waste to let the dogs go idle while other departments have redundant resources, so maybe we need to look at the big picture, county wise. Maybe it's being done now, or at least being studied. Any comments from the officials who actually know the numbers? Or next best-Tina?
GR December 26, 2012 at 01:24 PM
Thank you!!!! Glad someone is realistic on this site. I swear it's overrun with pompous bureaucrats that seek to put out of society anything they personally find distasteful. It's frickin pot. These are the type of people that love a Nanny State and live to see someone who dare defy the marijuana laws lynched like they're an actual criminal. Go figure someone by the name of Greg has it right, that's my name too!
Craig Belfor December 26, 2012 at 01:37 PM
He was pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence. I don't care if it's pot, beer or stupidity. If you drive badly, you're a danger to yourself and others. The real crime here is that this idiot got stoned while transporting. If ever there was a time to be straight and drive carefully, this was the time. He hit both bells- stoned and stupid. In addition to being out of business, someone paid for that stuff, and he now has to deal with them.
Chester B. Henry December 26, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Craig, I agree with the above poster real name or not. That person makes common sense to the cost and liability of the NPD and it doing a search in say Tiburon which can afford its own K9. . If the suspect gets hurt and decides to go after the city for his injury's he will include the Novato Police department.. Then you have poster Al Dugan who refuses to look forward and get things done. He has a one track mind to get Toni to run for the highest office in the land with no experience . Most people start at the bottom, work hard and get elected for a lot more than collecting pennies. Toni Is a great lady but she needs to reconsider her thoughts of running as more that two people will probably be running for the office of supervisor. Toni would get my vote for city council if I lived in Novato but to start out at the top is just taking away votes from a real contender to challenge Arnold
Tina McMillan December 26, 2012 at 05:02 PM
http://www.marinscope.com/novato_advance/news/article_8c80ad50-3f2c-11e2-a95b-001a4bcf887a.html Novato police K9 unit completes narcotics detection training NPD thanks local ‘Pennies for Police Dogs’ “The five weeks of intense training represent our dedication to this program and to fulfill our commitment to the community to have the most effective K9 unit possible,” wrote Lt. Jennifer Welch in a statement." "The K9’s teams are a valuable resource and have been credited for successfully locating and apprehending fleeing suspects, recovering evidence, and providing security in crowd control situations. The NPD has made this resource available to other Marin law enforcement agencies on more serious crimes in the county, said the NPD." The recent grant we received to hire new police officers expires in three years. By then we will need to have increased city revenue or face the same problems with an ongoing structural deficit. These dogs work closely with officers on drug busts. Great questions about cost. I couldn't find any information that would confirm how Novato is reimbursed if other cities use our dogs and officers. Remember they are a pair. I don't believe you can send a trained dog to work with an untrained officer. We can ask our new police Chief how it works.
Bob Ratto December 26, 2012 at 05:23 PM
The current budgeted cost for K9 operations for the current fiscal year is $456,246 -(3 officers $396,065, materials/supplies $52,366, contract services-$7,815)-there are no listed program revenues. If we are "loaning" out the police dogs (which do go with their handler officers) we should get some revenue back from the other departments, as we are incurring costs without benefit when resources are deployed outside of Novato.
Tina McMillan December 26, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Bob We have the only K9 unit in the county. I couldn't find anything on whether we get reimbursed for these services. Were you able to?
Bob Ratto December 26, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Tina The budget does not show any reimbursement, I was citing figures from the City budget. While it is conceivable that the figures are "net" of reimbursement, I kind of doubt it. My thoughts are that with our need for revenues, when we "loan out" the dogs and officers, we should be reimbursed at incurred costs (which is roughly $100 per hour) for time spent helping other agencies. I have no idea how much revenue this would generate, but every little bit would help.
Tina McMillan December 26, 2012 at 05:49 PM
Chester We see this differently. Remember Novatos police force is undermanned due to budget constraints. Police dogs take the place of officers in some instances. They are less costly to train and maintain, than their human counterparts but make the officers they work with more than twice as useful. Novato would not have created a K9 unit if they didn't see it as a cost savings and a benefit. I don't know how the unit is currently used by other police departments. I included the article on funding for training because of how the costs were covered. This is one of those places where we do need to reach out and ask the Police Chief for more information about the purpose of the unit, if it is reimbursed for work outside Novato and why we chose to have three highly trained police officers with dogs as partners. On the separate subject of Toni running for Supervisor, when Arnold ran she had no experience outside of working for Burton and a recent election to town council. Pat Ecklund was the far more experienced individual running for Supervisor but Arnold had the political connections. Unfortunately over the years she has not served Novato as well as her political interests and each time she runs she is unopposed. Toni ran because we needed someone to step in and talk about the issues Arnold ignores. Good for Toni and good for Al for supporting her. We will have to agree to disagree on this one.
Chester B. Henry December 26, 2012 at 05:52 PM
Tina, You are once again point off !! . Who is talking about intense training as we are talking about why does Novato Police department need three dogs . FYI Novato is not reimbursed for the use of our personal to search for any suspects in any town . Yes i think the k9s are a great, but the dog handlers are paid extra to take the dog home at night and take care of them just like any animal owner would. Your friend Mr Dugan has opened up a can of worms that will hurt your candidate for Supervisor . He had thought he was bringing out a negative for the donation from the supervisors fund and now he is getting it stuck where the sun don't shine. The Pennies for Police dogs was great idea and now your friend has turned it into collecting Pennies and turning it into giving away Dollars for helping the other city's ..
Roger December 26, 2012 at 05:52 PM
Chester, there is a reason why Toni can't first seek a City Council position before going for a County position...she lives beyond Novato's city boundary.
Tina McMillan December 26, 2012 at 06:06 PM
Chester I suspect NPD would not have chosen to be the only police department in Marin to use K9 officers unless it was a substantial contribution to curbing crime. K9 officers do more than just sniff out drugs. That was the point in posting the link to the whole article. The cost of taking care of a canine officer is far less expensive than a human one. I think we need to ask for more information and if Bob is correct ask for reimbursement when we lend our dogs and officers out. On the Toni and Al front, we will have to agree to disagree. Arnold had very little experience when she ran for office. Pat Ecklund was by far the more experienced candidate. Toni is running against Arnold because the last time Arnold ran unopposed. Too few people have the courage to enter the political arena. It is filled with cronyism and becomes quite ugly as we saw when Levine ran against Allen and won in spite of Allen's hit pieces. Unfortunately I am in Kinsey's district. God only knows why they needed to cut Novato up. The redistricting was another farce simply costing taxpayers time and money. I am grateful to Toni for running because it means that Arnold will be on the hot seat to explain all the activities that have gone awry on her watch. If Toni wins we will have a fiscally responsible person advocating for Novato who is free of the constraints of political favoritism.
Peter C. Ross December 26, 2012 at 07:10 PM
The fiscal prudency of The Pennies for Police Dog Campaign shows Novato and the rest of Marin what we can do by being smart with our money. My family thanks Toni Shroyer for that leadership. Our local politicians have not been responsible and now we are in a fiscal crisis. If we continue to vote the same career politician in over and over again, we get the same results, period. We need new blood and we need it now. The so called “experience” with our current Supervisors has put us in a financial disaster.
Chester B. Henry December 26, 2012 at 07:50 PM
Here we go with the lies Peter says Toni was smart with the money in showing the rest of Marin how to operate . How is that Peter, when no city pays Novato to search for them As far as needing new blood in office ,you blew that in the last and every other election. I think it is great that you are finally waking up to whats been really going on in Marin , but forgetting district five has one out of five votes which can change nothing .
Chester B. Henry December 26, 2012 at 08:09 PM
Oh Tina Listen up You said " I suspect NPD would not have chosen to be the only police department in Marin to use K9 officers unless it was a substantial contribution to curbing crime. K9 officers do more than just sniff out drugs" Hello Tina, the other departments are saying why do we need a k9 when good old Novato has three along with the liability , the costs and we can make one call at no costs to our city if we need a search. I am proud of Novato and the officers it has but three k9s are a bit much when the police chief said crime is down in Novato long before we had two dogs
John Parnell December 26, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Chester - I didn't realize that county supervisors held the "highest office in the land". It is nice to know though, that your voice won't amount to a vote in our next election for Supervisor. Toni Shroyer is going to be the best Supervisor that Novato has ever had, and we are very fortunate that she has decided to run. I have never met anyone with more energy, who has given as much to their community as Toni. I don't want my kids watching drug deals occur on our streets near our schools either, which is what happened with Toni to prompt her founding Pennies for Police Dogs. However, I don't really think using police dogs on routine traffic stops is too "progressive", or even perhaps constitutional, especially when the dogs can't tell the difference between medical marijuana and "illegal" marijuana - but that isn't Toni's call...she just raised the money for the dogs. Can the dogs smell crystal meth? In my eyes, that is the drug that we should be going after. I agree with some of you, that Novato shouldn't pay for the dogs if the whole county is using them. If that's the case, perhaps they should be folded into the sheriff's department, especially if the Novato PD can't afford them, and aren't being reimbursed for sharing. And Al is correct, Chester - Judy Arnold didn't give Pennies for Police Dogs $7,000 from her slush fund - every taxpayer in Marin did.
Tina McMillan December 26, 2012 at 08:20 PM
Chester I worry that we will only get into another argument if we don't look for common ground in what we are discussing. I know NPD is understaffed. I know that it has to do with out ongoing structural budget deficit. I know Pennies for Police Dogs is successful in getting people to donate money separate from tax revenues, that support the program. I trust we wouldn't have the program if it didn't serve a purpose. I believe the dogs do more than just drug work which is why I posted the original link. I think we need to let our police department weigh in on this discussion before we quibble over details because we really don't know how they feel. If Chief Berg said he wanted to increase our number of K9 officers pairs I would trust him. He is the first police chief we have had in a while that has acknowledged the problems associated with property crime, gangs and drugs here in Novato. It was the previous Chief who said we had fewer crimes. Again, without looking at the data, its hard to know which crimes they are talking about. What I see are more drugs, more dealing, more property theft, more damage to property, more prostitution, more unsafe driving due to drugs/alcohol and distraction, more tagging and a general sense that we have gone from a smaller, more rural community to a suburban community that now has crime from larger nearby cities infiltrating its borders. This is just my impression. What do you think about the crime in Novato?
Chester B. Henry December 26, 2012 at 09:55 PM
Tina , Please quit fooling yourself. When do we need a dog for tagging, property theft,prostitution, unsafe driving or anything like that . I have an employee who lives in San Marin and last week when they searched his house looking for the burglars in his area they was no dog present he said. He got a call from a neighbor and went home to open his door for three officers . The dog is used if someone says he is over there or in there . Where were the dogs when this took place ?.
Tina McMillan December 26, 2012 at 10:56 PM
http://novato.patch.com/articles/k9-unit-tracks-suspect-in-25-car-thefts-on-san-carlos-way K9 Unit Tracks Suspect in 25 Car Thefts on San Carlos Way Suspect was tracked to Miwok Park and arrested on suspicion of a rash of thefts from unlocked cars early this morning. Police are still looking for a second suspect. By Tracey Ruiz March 9, 2012 The link to the above article is a sample of the work of the K9 unit. Chester why are you making this into an ugly commentary on the work of our police department's K9 officers? I keep saying it would help to hear directly from them. You keep acting as if I am some how an idiot for thinking they contribute to solving local crimes. I just don't get it.
S. Biada December 27, 2012 at 05:29 AM
The Novato K9's are used through Mutual Aid to help other cities in Marin. Extra officers come to Novato through Mutual Aid to help with Novato's problems. The Marin County Drug Task Force, which is an example of Mutual Aid, helps Novato. San Rafael Police are fundraising for K9's as they have seen the success of Novato's and have had an uptick in crime (several shootings in the last month). The San Rafael Chief is very supportive of police dogs. Chief Berg has stated that K9's "are force multipliers". Ask any law enforcement officer about K9's and they will give you the thumbs up for police dogs.
Tina McMillan December 27, 2012 at 07:46 AM
Thank you for explaining how this works.

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