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Taking a bite out of crime—literally
By Matt Stone

December 3, 2005

John Gunby Jr. says there is nothing quite like being held in the grip of a dog’s mouth. Simply stated: “(You have) 1,500 pounds of pressure exerted through four teeth.”

With aspirations of a career in law enforcement, Gunby volunteers with the Tempe Police Department’s K-9 unit while also working as a uniformed civilian in the Traffic Bureau.

Gunby, a Corona del Sol High School graduate, is currently studying criminal justice at Arizona State University.

While to some the stereotypical image of volunteering involves selling items at a bake sale or participating in a fundraiser, few think of it as getting hunted down by a gnarling, vicious canine.

And while it may not be the norm, this is exactly what Gunby does.

Gunby impersonates criminals to help train the dogs in the K-9 unit. Leaving himself vulnerable to the attacks of the dogs hardly seems sane at first, though Gunby says those who see his work change their minds.

“Most people call me crazy,” he said. “(But), they like what I do (when they see it).”

The Tempe K-9 unit, which was started in 1979, needs the help of volunteers such as Gunby for simulations involving suspects who refuse to cooperate. These charades often lead Gunby into less-than-pleasant situations.

On more than one occasion, Gunby has found himself in an unlikely situation.

“The dumpsters and sewer drains are the worst,” he said. “(I’m in there) anywhere from 20 minutes to hours.”

While he finds himself in undesirable surroundings from time to time, Gunby admits that he is one of the lucky ones when working with the dogs.

“(I haven’t had) actual punctures--came close a few times,” he said. “(I’m) one of the fortunate ones that hasn’t gotten bit.”

While he has not had his skin broken by the animals, Gunby has had other injuries.

“You still come out with bruises and scratches,” he said. “(I was) knocked out once.”

Gunby and the K-9 unit use different tools to protect those acting, ranging from a full “bite suit,” which covers entire body, to a bite sleeve, which covers only the arm.

Gunby earns valuable experience from the work, progressing toward his ultimate goal of becoming a police officer.

Growing up around dogs helped to acclimate Gunby to the environment of his work, he says.

“In the back of my mind I always thought of doing something like this.”

Gunby’s work has been heralded outside of the Police Department, as well.

He was recognized by the city of Tempe earlier this year for amassing 200 hours with the Police Department’s K-9 unit, its bait car program and as a motorist services assistant. For his efforts, Gunby was named Volunteer of the Year.

After becoming a police officer, Gunby says he is considering specializing in work with the K-9 unit, no doubt leading to fewer bites out of him and more bites out of crime.
































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