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University Police looking to introduce K-9 unit

by Margaret Stewart - Managing Editor
Tue, Oct 29th 2019 08:00 pm
University Police is looking into getting a K-9 unit. Officer Laura Thompson would be the dog's handler, caring for the dog and continuing to keep both her and the dog's training up to date. The department is still in the early stages of getting a police dog and the biggest decision at the moment is the breed of the dog.
University Police is looking into getting a K-9 unit. Officer Laura Thompson would be the dog's handler, caring for the dog and continuing to keep both her and the dog's training up to date. The department is still in the early stages of getting a police dog and the biggest decision at the moment is the breed of the dog.

The University Police (UP) at The College at Brockport is hoping to expand its unit by one. The new officer would be a K-9 unit specially trained to locate firearms and explosives. Officer Laura Thompson said the K-9 will be a useful member and tool on the force.

Going out and interacting with the student community is integral to how both the University Police and the Village of Brockport Police Department operates. University Police Chief Daniel Vasile explained the village K-9 officer Brock has helped the village police connect with the college community.

“I think I’ve seen how Brockport PD, its dog Brock, how well it’s been received by students, faculty and staff,” Vasile said. “I feel like the dog is a rock star when it comes on campus. I don’t know who doesn’t want to go pet him or, I mean, students just flock to him. So I was actually really glad to see them get a dog first and see him so well received here.”

Brockport Mayor Margaret Blackman is in full support of the college’s pursuit of a K-9 after seeing Brock’s “tremendous success” in the greater Brockport community.

“I think he is like a magnet whenever he is out anywhere,” Blackman said.

Blackman originally wrote a letter of support for the college-based K-9 unit.

“I like to mention that the college K-9 would have his own social media accounts,” Blackman said. “This has proved exceptionally successful with Brockport’s Brock who has over 1,200 followers on Instagram... and does so much to support community policing and create a positive image of our Village Police Department. He’s a friendly presence at our festivals and special events and at BCSD [Brockport Central School District] schools.”

BCSD was also quick to provide the department with a letter of support.

Officer Thompson wanted to be clear: the dog will not be trained for narcotics but instead be trained in locating firearms and explosives.

“Basically, the K-9 unit is going to be used as an extra tool on security and safety measures,” Thompson said. “To increase the safety of the campus, the dog would be a bomb detection dog in explosive detection.” 

The idea is with certain new laws on the horizon, this K-9 will prove more useful than having two narcotic dogs in town.

“Right now, a lot of the drug dogs are trained with marijuana,” Vasile said. “And obviously we kind of see that our state’s going probably toward legalization of marijuana. So, [the] last thing we’d want to do is invest and train an animal right now that could literally be kind of worthless.”

Currently, in order to ensure big campus events are safe — like the spring concert, some sporting events and the mail rooms — the University Police have to call in a K-9 from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department (MCSD) to search the premises.

“With the mail rooms, we obviously get, you know, thousands, millions of packages a year that tractor trailer loads here to this campus,” Vasile said. “So if we had a suspicious package right now, we would have to call the sheriff’s department to have them bring in their dog or the state police. So for us to have that resource, you know, here 40, 50 hours a week when Officer Thompson’s working or the ability to just to call her and have her come in for something like that would be a great resource.”

The campus dog would not just provide services to the campus but also be used in the village as well.

“We could call them [the village police] anytime and they could bring their dog here. But the same for them,” Vasile said. “I mean, we have a post office and in our own village here, I mean, we have a movie theater, we have several businesses and, as you know, we do our own parades and festivals, there’s art festivals here in the summer. What a great way for us to be able to give back to them for all that they help us with.”

Brockport is joining other SUNY universities who have decided to invest in K-9 units.

“So SUNY Albany actually has three different dogs in their unit,” Thompson said. “There’s SUNY Morrisville, Cortland and Cobleskill and they’ve all actually gotten their units within the last five years. All of them have bomb detection, I believe Albany also has drug, but all of those schools have bomb detection. That seems to be the go to for colleges and universities.”

As another part of her research, Officer Thompson asked for students’ feedback and opinions on having a police dog on their campus by polling clubs like the Brockport Student Government (BSG), Men of Color (MOC) and Brockport Pride Association.

“I had some really good questions from some of those students and members of those groups, and I was able to answer them for them,” Thompson said. “From every group I went to, it was a majority rule vote that everyone was in support for it.”

Getting a K-9 unit is a big responsibility for the department as well as Officer Thompson who would be the only current female K-9 handler in the Monroe County area.

“Basically, the dog and the handler have to attend two trainings a month forever to keep their certification,” Thompson said. “Initially, the training would be about a 12 week K-9 Academy and then moving forward two times a month, so it is a lot of training. It’s really good for the dogs to stay consistent and to keep the training going.”

Vasile said his fellow Brockport alumna was the perfect person for the partnership.

“The first few years Officer Thompson’s been here, she’s really taken on our model of community policing,” Vasile said. “She’s out there, in the residence halls, meeting students. I thought pairing the two together would be very good and beneficial to not only our department, but the community we serve.”

While it is still in the early stages of obtaining a dog, the department is attempting to decide between two different breeds: a german shepherd or a labrador retriever. 

“There was some talk about german shepherds [and] students possibly being afraid of them,” Blackman said. “It’s a little bit of a different environment on a college campus.”

Regardless of the type of dog, all of its basic needs will be taken care of while it is serving on the police force.

“Officer Thompson learned in her research how affordable this can be,” Vasile said. “We learned about a grant through the Brockport Police Department. We learned about how you can get different services such as veterinarian services, food and stuff like that for the canine unit and we were pretty much able to secure all of that as well. So the cost is very minimal to the college and University Police, for us to do this, which to me that makes it that much more attainable.”

The earliest students could expect to see a new furry friend would be in spring semester of 2020. 


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