K9 Program

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Estes Park Police Department has a specialized K9 unit. The unit consists of a K9 handler, specially trained canine, and vehicle equipped with an interior kennel with climate control and temperature alarms, a home living space/kennel, protective gear and training equipment. This program was fully funded through community support in 2019. The costs to develop this program were considerable, although the return on investment to the community includes many long-term benefits for community safety. Tax-deductible donations funded everything from dog food and toys, to veterinary care, the dog’s vest and badge, K9 unit training, and the custom-built kennel the dog lives in at his handler’s home. 

For more information, or to schedule an officer presentation on the K9 program, please contact 970-586-4000.

K9 Diego is a Belgian Malinois. Diego joins Officer Handler Mikel Otazua to serve as Estes Park's first K9 team. Diego was named at birth, in Holland in May of 2018. He received basic training in Florida. Diego was selected by Estes Park Police Department based on personality, temperament, stamina and agility, and a rigorous veterinary exam. 

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In order to become certified as a police canine, K9 Diego and Officer Otzua completed rigorous K9/handler training. Otazua noted that his lifelong dream of being a K9 handler was made possible by encouragement from the community, the department, and his family and friends. 

To learn more, please contact 970-586-4000.

By: Police Chief Wes Kufeld, Retired

A K9 is a highly specialized dog with intensive police training, which enhances our efforts to keep residents and visitors safe. As we roll out this program in support of public safety, we asked for community assistance to fund the program.

The staff of the Police Department are faced with new societal pressures every day, so we must stay proactive and remain ahead of the criminal element to protect our community. A K9 is an incredible asset to enhance the capabilities of our patrol officers. In fact, K9 enhanced skills can alert officers to potential hazards, which could save an officer’s life someday.  K9s are multi-tasking units within a police force, consisting of the dog and its handler. Their tasks include locating fleeing criminals, missing persons, illegal and hidden drugs, miscellaneous evidence, weapons and stolen property. The unit may be called to search for people, explosives, drugs, or all three at once. Special event patrols are a valuable K9 duty, since large gatherings present heightened safety concerns.

Today’s K9s know the difference between work and play. When not working on a specific task, they are approachable, friendly and affectionate. This flexibility will allow us to offer more opportunities for community engagement and education. Most people can relate to having a dog as a partner, friend and family member – so people of all ages will find K9 demonstrations fun and interesting. These demonstrations can be requested by the public and will help us to foster goodwill and community partnerships.

Estes Park’s K9 unit will be cross-trained so they can provide maximum benefit to the community. The K9 handler receives hundreds of hours of initial training before they, along with the trained K9, can be certified and placed in service to perform their daily duties. Additionally, K9s participate in ongoing education and training on an almost weekly basis to remain current and maintain their certifications. K9 units spend their days on patrol, assisting in calls for service and traffic contacts. A K9 and handler become partners to protect each other in hazardous situations.  

For more information, or to schedule an officer presentation on the K9 program, please call 970-586-4000.