Vietnam veteran Bill Baumbeck, now retired from the Yuma Engineering Department, was diagnosed with prostate cancer due to Agent Orange exposure while serving in the Marines. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs classified him as completely disabled and he’s now entitled to a “substantial” monthly payment.

After undergoing radiation and taking medication, he no longer has the energy to do the things he previously enjoyed, his wife Kathy Baumbeck told the City Council on Tuesday. Instead, Bill has decided to use the VA money to help nonprofit groups and projects he supports, including a proposed police memorial and the local Police K-9 Unit.

“It’s nice that we can share it, give it back to the community,” she told the Yuma Sun.

During the work session, Sgt. Morgan Patterson, who serves as the K-9 supervisor, expressed appreciation to the Baumbecks for a donation of $1,500 for a police dog vest. It was to have gone to Bolo, who was handled by Officer Tom Linville, but the police dog died earlier this month after getting cancer. The vest will now go to a replacement police dog.

The other members of the unit are Officer Zach Miner and K-9 Adaro and Officer Michael Robinson and K-9 Axel. They are charged with searching for hidden suspects, tracking scents and trailing drugs. They can find a person in a crowd of people. They are tough hunters “but only when we need them to,” Patterson said.

Off-duty, they are sweet, gentle dogs. “Adaro is as sweet as it gets, yet he’ll jack you up real quick,” he quipped.

Patterson, who handles Broko, used a recent experience to illustrate the importance of police dogs. Police confronted a man suspected of setting fires downtown. With a knife in his hand, he challenged the officers who were at the scene.

“As soon as I showed up, not me, as soon as my dog showed up,” the suspect gave himself up, Patterson said.

He noted that the cost of the equipment necessary for the handling and training of police dogs has climbed significantly since the Yuma K-9 program started in 1994. It cost the police department $12,500 to buy the newest team member, Axel.

Just to send one new patrol team to K-9 school costs $29,000. The good news is that the department now trains in-house. However, by the time a K-9 is ready to hit the streets, the cost of equipping and training the dog has jumped to $20,000.

Every year the department spends about $30,000 to replace damaged equipment, feed the dogs, fuel the vehicles to run them, and other expenses. He listed the cost of the equipment: bite suit $1,500, bite sleeve $250, muzzle $250, hidden sleeve $125, rubber arms and legs $170, reward toys $12 to $25, shoes $75, detection launcher $1,000.

A medical kit that costs $250 and is bought with donated money can save the life of an officer or police dog out in the field. With the kit, broken arms can be set, gunshot wounds can be patched. It has activated charcoal in case a dog ingests drugs. 

Every once in a while, a dog will accidentally bite its handler. They can take care of the wound with the kit. But, Patterson noted, the unit is “massively proud” that in a decade of service, the dogs haven’t had to bite more than a dozen people. In the Phoenix metro area, K-9 bites are about a dozen a month.

The police department had planned to buy a new K-9 this year; now it needs to buy two dogs. Bolo’s death was a “huge, huge loss” for the unit. He had just hit four years on the job and was in his prime.

Normally the K-9 unit wants to “fly under the radar,” Patterson said, but he addressed the council to recognize the Baumbecks’ contribution and to get the word out that the unit accepts donations.

They need donations because “dogs literally eat our budget. Without contributions from the community, we would not be able to put together the program that we have,” Patterson said.

Kathy Baumbeck explained that they didn’t go public with their donation because they’re “looking to be glory hounds as we are small potatoes.” Rather, she said, they want to be part of the solution, not the problem, and convey to others that they don’t have to be rich to contribute. Every little bit helps. 

For information on how to donate to the Yuma K-9 Unit, contact Sgt. Patterson through the Yuma Police Department’s non-emergency number: 928-783-4421.

Recommended for you