The Cop Everyone Loves

The San Mateo Police Department Master Officer Program identifies an elite group of officers within our department who have earned the title “Master Officer” based not only on their yearly performance evaluations, but also on their years of experience and various expertise. SMPD is lucky to recognize our largest number of Master Officers ever in 2016, each of whom will be submitting a personal article on a topic of their choice in the coming weeks, allowing our community the rare chance of getting to know the people behind the SMPD badge…
The Cop Everyone Loves
By SMPD Master Officer Joe Hickman

No one, and I mean no one, can dislike a dog! The wagging tail, slobber kisses, and playful gaze let us know our four legged companions are one of the best gifts in this world. While these friends will serve any family with loyalty, dogs have a proud history of service in law enforcement.

Dogs first came into service for municipal police work in the late 1860s when Bloodhounds were used in an attempt to track and locate “Jack the Ripper.” Hounds were again called into service later in that century to combat street gangs in France and Germany. Hounds were used exclusively until the 1920s, when the German Shepherd became the breed of choice for military and law enforcement.

The San Mateo Police Department has fielded and maintained an active K9 Unit since 1973. During this time, more than twenty dogs have faithfully served the citizens of San Mateo and protected their human companions (handlers).

My partner “Scout” and I became members of the SMPD K9 Unit in 2015. Scout, a Belgian Malinois, was born in the Czech Republic in 2013 and spent the first year of his life in an Israeli Defense Force military kennel. Scout and I were paired after a trial at our local training facility where we quickly bonded. After a month and half basic handler course, Scout and I hit the streets of San Mateo with our other K9 teams of “Ajax” (Off. Keller / Off. Abi-Chahine) and “Hero” (Off. Martin). During just his second shift, Scout safely located a trespasser hiding in the closet of a homeowner’s bedroom. Since then, he’s located numerous other outstanding suspects, protected me from hostile and aggressive subjects, and detected narcotics in both vehicles and structures.

Unlike the other officers I work with, Scout comes home with me at the end of each shift. He has a special place to call his own and generally acts like any other dog when he is not “on duty”. Scout enjoys all the perks of family life including kisses and tummy rubs from my wife and daughter and chasing tennis balls and squirrels in the yard.

Scout’s favorite activity will always be jumping in the back seat of an SMPD patrol car and going to work. As a dual purpose working dog, there are many tasks he is trained to handle. Each of the working dogs in the SMPD K9 Unit are dual purpose trained and focus on narcotic detection, as well as patrol / apprehension. Throughout any shift, our police dogs can be called upon to check vehicles for suspected narcotics, search open areas for missing evidence, or search buildings and areas for outstanding criminal suspects.

Personnel throughout the department often think of our working dogs when calls for service are received through our Dispatch Center. SMPD Dispatchers often ask questions which may sound irrelevant when someone is calling to report an alarm or an unknown subject entering a residence.

“Do you own any pets?”
“Are they secured in your home?”
“Do you have any small children?”
“Are any of your doors or windows open?”

While these questions may seem unrelated at the time, these answers better inform our officers and supervisors when weighing the decision to utilize one of our K9s.

Police K9s are one of the best assets a department and community can maintain. Scout, Hero, and Ajax will continue to serve the people of San Mateo, honoring more than forty years of tradition. SMPD K9 “No Better Friend”


SMPD Master Officer Joe Hickman is a 9-year veteran of the San Mateo Police Department and a 2nd generation police officer.  He is also a proud military veteran, as well as a proud father and husband.  Scout is one of the very few K9’s that can keep up with Officer Hickman’s work ethic.

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