Canine Division Home · Division History · F.A.Q. · Canine Officers
Sgt. Jules Kmak in front of old No. 7 Station at 93 S. 13th Street. Notice the word "Division" as it was known at that time.
Julius P. "Jules" Kmak was the first K-9 Instructor for the Pittsburgh Police Department. While with the U.S. Coast Guard he attended a one-year course at the Canine Training School of the U.S. Army and then another year with the Canine School of the Coast Guard.
This background training qualified him to teach other servicemen and dogs to work together as a team. Following his discharge from the service he became a Pittsburgh patrolman for six years.
Kmak stated, "during that time I spoke with my supervisors concerning a canine program November 1958 the city Fathers advised the Public Safety Department that they could begin training a canine division."
Two canine teams, Jules Kmak and Ben Palumbi were the original members. Kmak became the instructor with the rank of sergeant and Palumbi later advanced to lieutenant and Inspector Kmak remained with the K-9 while Palumbi returned to district supervision.
Until his retirement in April 1947 Kmak remained as supervisor and instructor of the city's K-9 program. Realizing the success of the operation more officers and animals were added. The Division received numerous commendations and awards from the City, and other law enforcement agencies including the F.B.I. Kmak also received many commendations and awards personally. During his span of command the outfit was increased to 48 canine teams. He also trained officers for other police agencies. Many of them received recognition for bravery and outstanding service.
Training began late in 1958 at the Schenley Park Oval Bowling Green, former No. 7 Police Station on 13 Street, Glenwood Street Car Barn before they received quarters at the Police Academy on Washington Blvd. A new building has been erected next to the academy with enough space to adequately provide all the needs of the K-9 for training, storage, parking, and office space. In other words finally a home of their own after a quarter of a century of existence.
It was Monday, November 17,1958 when Patrolman Jules Kmak and Ben Polumbi became the original members of what Safety Director Louis Rosenberg thought would become a valued arm of the department. Many times since they proved Rosenberg's judgment to be right on the money.
Dogs were used by Baltimore police and Rosenberg and a few councilmen went to see first hand if the use of the animals would be beneficial to our police department.
Kmak and Polumbi were selected to begin a 6-8 weeks training program. Since it was new, the program consisted of having the officer and the dog understand each other as partners. They would be constant companions while patrolling or whatever else they would eventually be called upon to do. The officer took the animal home with him and lived with the family. He became a pet of the household. Mr. and Mrs. Steven Lill, professional trainers, of East Pittsburgh supplied free the know how. The animals were donated and the officers were volunteers. A dog food company supplied free chow to help with the food bill. The officers received $ 1.00 a day to supplement the food bill and whatever else the dog needed. Another $ 1.00 was paid to ort the animal back and forth to the stand the assigned beat.
As the K-9 Division progressed, officers John King, Melvin Miller, Harry Burkey, John Daniels, Charles Sweinberg, Jack McAfee and Robert Ebbert joined the K-9.
Director Rosenberg stated that the animals proved their worth in tracking down suspects, sentry duty, sniffing out prowlers, defending their master, dispersing disorderly rowdy crowd. Eventually they were trained in the narcotics field and could sniff out a cache of hidden drugs. One of the dog's most important assets is his keen sense of smell, which is much more highly developed than that of a human being. He is also able to hear higher and fainter noises than humans are capable of hearing. A good police dog also possesses three other qualities: a lively intelligence, the mobility to pursue suspects in areas where a man on foot would have little success. They have a quality of persistence to concentrate on the task they are given.
Following Kmak's retirement Bob Ebbert, Ed Cunningham and Danny Konieczka, in that order, led the K-9 group. At one time there was a compliment of 52 men assigned to the outfit. However, there was a period of seven years when no police officers were hired and only two promotions made within the department. We now find that there are 28 assigned to the outfit and hopefully some time in the near future 12 will be added making a roster of 40 officers.
There are nine vehicles assigned to the six police zones. A foot patrol is also assigned to the various zones. Among the 28 dogs one is trained to seek out bombs and eight are trained for narcotics investigations. They serve a dual purpose of street duty also. Since illegal narcotics play such a vital part in modern activities hopefully more canine will be trained and added to the police department.