December 8, 2021

Bomb tracking dog to join college’s police force

Photo by By Bonnie van den Born, - Transferred from nl.wikipedia to Commons., CC BY-SA 3.0

A German Shorthaired Pointer is shown in this photo from Wikimedia Commons.

SUNY Cortland University Police will soon have the assistance of a dog that can detect bombs and find missing people.

It’s name will be Red.

The dog’s name was chosen after the department decided to hold a survey with three options — Red, Blaze and Guardian — for SUNY Cortland staff and students to pick from. The department announced Red as the winner on Sunday.

But first the department will have to find the dog.

Chief Mark DePaull said the department wants to get a German Shorthaired Pointer, a breed created for hunting game birds, small game and even deer. The department will likely have to get a puppy so that it can be trained. Training could take about five months including a onemonth training session between Red and his handler, Officer David Coakley.

In September, DePaull said he wanted to get a dog for large campus events.

“We wanted to get a canine, but we needed it to be a benefit to the college,” DePaull said. “Since 911 and the terrorist attacks, campuses have been considered soft targets.”

The list of soft targets include shopping venues, schools, sporting arenas and transportation systems, according to the Department of Homeland Security, places where masses of people gather and are easily accessible with limited security and protective measures.

A article by Rick Amweg and Paul Denton lists several reasons people could attack universities. The reasons include trying to impede education, independent thought and to counter religious activity. The authors also suggest colleges could be soft targets because they have labs, medical facilities, art collections and historic buildings. Colleges also are gathering places for large events and could have less security than other places.

Red would also be able to find missing people, routinely check buildings and inspect suspicious packages, but will not be trained to detect drugs.

University police will also have an agreement with the Cortland city police and Cortland County Sheriff’s Department to use the dog if need be.

Cortland County Sheriff’s Capt. Rob Derksen said the department has two dogs trained to search for drugs, peoples and items — specifically evidence. The dogs are also trained to protect their handlers.

Having a bomb-detecting dog nearby is a great tool, Derksen said. He recalled a bomb threat almost 10 years ago at Walmart in Cortlandville. Whenever the department has needed a bomb dog, officers have had to tap the U.S. Army at Fort Drum, Syracuse police or state police.

Funding to get the dog, $3,800, came from the Sean M. Walsh K-9 Memorial Foundation. That will pay for training, too, DePaull said.

The department will have to cover the costs to transform one of its vehicles into a caninefriendly vehicle. That money will come from the department’s budget through the college. DePaull is unsure of how much the costs will total.

DePaull said he hopes to have Red working by late spring or early summer.