Police department adds K-9 unit to ranks

The UNA Police Department’s newest officer stiffs out possible threats on campus. He is specialized in explosive and firearm detection, but officials said he could be taught new skills in the future. 

UNA recently received two four-legged additions to its police force.

The UNA police department added a K-9 unit—specialized in detecting explosives and firearms—to its ranks at the end of March, with another unit working for the Lauderdale County drug taskforce, said Vice President of Student Affairs David Shields, who had to obtain permission from various UNA groups to obtain the dogs.

Both dogs are very friendly black labs, said UNA police Chief Bob Pastula.

“We applied for this about two years ago,” Pastula said. “It was awarded to us six or seven months ago.”

Shields said the dog and officer—who was already an officer for UNA and volunteered to work with the dog—attended a 10-week training course. Though the dog specializes in explosives and firearms, secondary training for other skills like drug detection could be added later, he said.

Shields said he is excited about the dog and thinks it is a great addition to UNA.

“I am not aware of any universities our size in the country having a K-9 unit,” he said. “Even some larger universities don’t have one.”

Police dogs are paired with officers and live with them at their homes, Pastula said, but while the K-9 unit is on duty, it will be housed at the new UNA police substation in Rivers Hall.

“That will be its primary location,” Shields said. “But it will also travel. We got this dog on a condition. We have to support the regional needs for a dog with this training.”

Shields said the K-9 unit will serve UNA, but also will travel to where its services are needed in the region.

“The animal and the training are all provided free,” he said. “We just have to pay for the maintenance.”

Pastula said Pet Depot has volunteered to provide food and some supplies for the dogs.

Shields said he thinks having a police dog will contribute to campus safety.

“A person looking at our department will see a very well-trained, capable law enforcement department,” he said. “Crime is more likely to happen if it’s perceived that you don’t have the capabilities to react.”

Shields said officials are working to properly welcome the new K-9 officer to campus.

“We’re working to secure a vehicle to transport the dog safely,” he said. “Whoever provides that will have an ad on the vehicle.”

UNA junior Dillon Green, a Rivers Hall resident and residence life student worker, said he has a unique perspective on why a dog could be effective for UNA.

“I was on staff during a bomb threat, so I think a dog would be a useful resource,” he said. “We probably won’t have a ton of situations for it, but it’ll probably be worth it.”

UNA junior English/professional writing major Caitlin Scully said having a police dog at UNA could send a message.

“With all the recent safety issues on campus, I can see how the dog would be important for the intimidation factor,” she said. “It shows that UNA is serious about taking care of its students.”