The University Record, April 1, 2002

Two new recruits represent a first for DPS

By Diane Brown
Facilities Management

Two rookie officers have joined the U-M Department of Public Safety (DPS), but unlike their partners, they are allowed to sleep through daily roll call. Brutus and Jessy are the first canines to join the DPS staff.

“We are pleased to add the canine program to our full-service public safety department,” said William Bess, DPS director.

“We had been evaluating the feasibility of beginning a canine program for more than a year. The out-growth of the events of Sept. 11 increased the security needs on campus, some of which a canine program will be able to address.”

Brutus, a two-year-old Belgian malinois, and Jessy, a German shepherd who is almost three years old, are trained to detect weapons and explosives and track people. They are not trained to detect drugs nor to act as attack dogs.

“The dogs will allow us to provide a higher level of safety for our campus,” said Lt. Joseph Piersante, manager of the DPS police services bureau. “They’ll be able to provide an immediate response when we have reports of suspicious packages or bomb threats. We’ll also be able to track from a scene potential perpetrators who commit crimes, and we’ll be able to locate lost persons, including children, hospital patients and visitors.”

Dogs Jessy (left) and Brutus with their partners, DPS officers Brian Daniels (left) and Mark West. (Photos by Marcia Ledford, U-M Photo Services)
The canines, purchased from Northern Michigan K-9, Inc., of Harrison, Mich., are full-time partners with Officer Mark West and Officer Brian Daniels. The two officers and two canines spent a month training together at NMK-9 before beginning their full-time work on campus. Currently, one team is assigned to the day shift and one to afternoons, though each team is available for call-out 24 hours a day.

“I’m most surprised by how smart the dogs are,” West said. “Their sense of smell is very strong. They are trained to find more than 100 explosive chemicals.”

The dogs were born in Holland, The Netherlands, and trained in Michigan. They respond to the officers’ verbal foreign commands. The four partners devote two days a month to canine training.

“When we are in work mode, they don’t respond to English,” said West. “But when we aren’t working, they love being around children. They are very people-friendly.”

“This program allows us to enhance security on campus for everyone,” Daniels said. “The dogs love to go to work every day, and so do we.”