The newest members of the Department of Public Safety are two-years-old and respond to verbal foreign language commands. DPS has added two police dogs to their staff – trained to track people and detect explosives.
DPS officers Mark West and Brian Daniels are in charge of overseeing Brutus, a two-year-old bengian malinois, and Jesse, a two-year-old German shepherd.
The dogs and officers have completed a one-month training program. DPS spokeswomen Diane Brown said the dogs will be used by DPS to track criminals, lost and missing persons and detect explosives. The dogs are not trained to attack.
Each canine unit cost DPS $13,000, which includes the dog, one month’s training for the dog and an officer, travel expenses, and retrofitting a DPS vehicle to transport the dogs.
“They’re both great dogs,” said Brian Gregory, a trainer for Northern Michigan K-9, a police dog training company. Gregory oversaw the training of Jesse and Brutus. He said the dogs were active and social, two criteria he said DPS was looked for.
Although the dogs are not trained to detect narcotics, Brown said DPS considered adding narcotics detection dogs but decided that bomb detection was more useful. She said the University receives a handful of threats by telephone each year and sweeps auditoriums before important speakers visit campus. The dogs were visible at recent visits to campus by David Horowitz and Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Evan Bayh (D-Ind.).
“We have much more of a danger of the possession of explosives … we attract many visitors,” Brown said.
Michigan State University Police Capt. Dale Metts said canine units have benefited the department and were well received. The Michigan State University Police Department has six canine units, including four dogs trained to detect explosives and two trained to detect narcotics. “When we started our (unit) back in 1984, honestly, they expected a big controversy,” Metts said.
“Is it hard? Certainly,” Metts said. “The way I look at it is to say, ‘What do we have to lose?'”
DPS has used the dogs to attempt to track suspects in a couple of the incidents in University residence halls, Brown said.
DPS said heightened security concerns since Sept. 11 motivated the department to obtain the dogs. “The outgrowth of the events of Sept. 11 increased the security needs on campus, some of which a canine program will be able to address,” DPS Director Bill Bess said in a written statement.
Gregory said he has trained hundreds of dogs, including some involved in the emergency effort on Sept. 11.
Jim Watson, secretary of the North American Police Work Dog Association, a national association of police officers who work with dogs and accredit dog handlers, said interest in police dogs has increased nationwide.
“Use of explosives detection units have really jumped,” Watson said. He added that dogs were superior to any other method when conducting sweeps for explosives.
“A dog can use his nose more quickly, economically and efficiently than a human,” he said.