KSUPD K-9 reaches one year of service

Dana Miller

Dexter, Kent State’s police dog, has reached his one-year mark of service with his handler, Officer Miguel Witt.

In November of last year, Witt, a 15-year veteran, teamed up with his Belgian Malinois working dog, thus making him the second K-9 handler at KSUPD.

“He’s my first working dog. I’ve had a few family pets, but it’s different,” Witt said. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s good work. I mean, I get to have a dog with me all of the time.”

In October of last year, K-9 Coco was the first and only working dog at KSUPD with her handler Officer Anne Spahr. After the police department saw how well it benefited the workforce, they decided to take advantage of the next homeland security grant brought on another K-9.

“Coco worked out so well and they saw that, ‘OK now that we do have this dog and the K-9 team with Officer Spahr and Coco… we need another one,’” Witt said. “We had this opportunity through the grant to get one and jumped right on it.”

According to a study done by Ken Trump, the president of National School Safety and Security Services, Ohio is ranked  top in having school threats.

That was one of the main reasons Spahr initiated having explosive detection K-9s join the force, Witt said.

Other schools in Ohio offering K-9 services on campus, including the University of Akron, Cleveland State University, Youngstown State University, Bowling Green State University, Central State University and Ohio State University. Witt said Kent State was one of the first schools to receive a working K-9.

Some of the duties that both Coco and Dexter are responsible for include making sure large venues are clear of any threat before the community fills it.

“We do pre-sweeps for all of the home football games (and) some of the more high profile events, depending on…who comes in concert,” Witt said.

He said the department is adding pre-sweeps of basketball games to its list of responsibilities starting this year and will continue to conduct one at commencement as well.

“They’re a great help for concerts, especially because what they do is two hours before the doors open, they bring the K-9 dogs, and they search around the whole gym,” said Kevin Otubu, director of programming for Undergraduate Student Government. “They’re another pair of eyes, but the nose is really what signifies them better than humans.”

With their outstanding sense of smell, the K-9s fit this kind of job perfectly. Spahr said the explosives they work with are not discernible to the human nose. humans’ olfactory systems are completely different then dogs’. The canines can detect threatening odors even in the slightest amount.

“If you look at any dog, really, their sense of smell is so beyond what ours is,” Spahr said. “(For) example, if I was making a pot of soup right now, you and I would smell soup, but the dog would smell each and every single ingredient in that soup. They can smell through things.”

Spahr said the dogs add an extra layer of safety to the community.

“(The community) know(s) that when they go to a special event or if there is a dignitary visiting…that we’re there working to keep them safe behind the scenes,” Spahr said.

According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, dogs trained in explosives detection are able to uncover up to 19,000 explosives combinations.

In addition to becoming assets to the community, Coco and Dexter also added a sense of companionship to the Kent State campus.

“Everybody loves the dogs…for the most part everybody’s been extremely positive,” Witt said. “We get requests all of the time, ‘can you bring the dogs, can we go say hi to them, when are you going to be out doing something?’”

At the end of Witt and Spahr’s shift, both of them take their K-9s home with them to further build a relationship. Witt said building trust was not hard to do and that they warmed up to each other quickly.

“A lot of play time (is) pretty much all it is, just being with them,” Witt said. “I got Dexter I think the second week that I was at my training. From that point on, he was with me the whole time.”

Spahr said the dogs trust their handlers and that it is important to be careful when handling the dog in order to maintain that trust.

“(What they do is) pretty incredible, and it’s about reinforcing (that),” Spahr said.

Witt said that although the dogs are working, they still enjoy their jobs. 

“The dogs lover their job,” Witt said. “It is all play time for them.”

Both Witt and Spahr agreed working with a K-9 makes their profession a lot more pleasant.

“He’s constant therapy,” Witt said. “Sometimes I think going out and playing is more for me to go out and relax with him. He loves it. He’ll play all day, (which) sometimes I need.”

Dana Miller is the safety and transportation reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected]