University police department sniffs out money for K-9 unit

By Cory Ray, Daily Egyptian

The SIUC Department of Public Safety is tracking down funds to add a K-9 unit.

Sgt. Chad Beights said the police department started an online donation page in fall 2014 to buy and train one K-9 unit. The estimated cost of the unit is nearly $50,000. He said the money provides for the cost of the dog, training the handler and equipping a vehicle for an animal.

Beights said it would take a minimum of three weeks to train a handler for the dog. The process will take longer if the canine requires training.  

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“The dog is going to be a benefit to the university as well as the community,” Beights said. “As soon as we can get the funds raised, we can get a dog picked out and handler trained.”

Beights said the K-9 would be used solely for explosives detection. He said DPS needs its own unit so the department does not have to rely on other units, as it has done in the past.

Bennie Vick, sheriff of Williamson County and former DPS officer, said when he worked on campus the department of public safety had to order a dog two weeks in advance and go through a series of approvals for a special event.

Vick said DPS has used dogs from Scott Air Force Base, which is roughly 85 miles from Carbondale.

“We’re at the mercy of their [other department’s] response time,” Beights said.

Beights said the police department must work with the athletics department to create a set of policies and procedures for using the K-9 during events.

Matt Shackleton, assistant director of SIU Arena, said he has seen K-9 units brought in only 10 times in his 12 years overseeing events at the university. He recalled one instance where dogs were used for a series of fraternity events after bomb threats were made. 

In the past two years, Shackleton said dogs have not been used for athletic events, but believes using a unit would be valuable.

“I certainly don’t want to have an incident and say, ‘We had this opportunity, but we didn’t think it would be beneficial,’” Shackleton said. “It would absolutely be beneficial.”

Shackleton said standard checking procedures for basketball and football games include inspecting bags and visual searches before and during games. Bomb threat procedures at events include evacuation, visual searches and K-9 searches of the facility.

The fundraiser is an online donation page now, but Beights said the police department is in the planning stages of hosting future fundraisers.

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