OGDEN, Utah – The newest member of the university police department is good at keeping low and detecting danger.
Balou, a nearly 3-year-old German Shepherd, joined the Weber State Police Department in late September after completing more than 300 hours of training to become the department's first-ever K9 unit. Officer Dennis Moore completed the training with Balou.
How long has WSU been in the market for a police dog? "As long as I've been here, about 12 years," said Dane LeBlanc, chief of police. LeBlanc added that Utah Valley State College has two police dogs.
The new police dog was made possible through the assistance of Stephen E. Denkers of the Willard L. Eccles Charitable Foundation and Roger Miller of Miller Kennels. Denkers donated $10,000 to provide for the set-up cost of starting a K9 unit, while Miller donated Balou, who is worth approximately $7,000.
"This wouldn't have been possible without their help," LeBlanc said. "We really appreciate their generosity."
At the Peace Officers Standards and Training for K9 units, Balou was trained to detect 15 types of chemicals known to be used in making bombs. "Anything people can get their hands on, he can detect," Moore said. The state certification course included field training exercises for Balou in Heber City, Lehi, Salt Lake City and West Valley City. Moore said Balou will continue to expand his expertise with more chemicals gradually. "You don't want to give them too much at the start."
Balou's main duty is detection of explosive materials. In the past, WSU had to borrow detection dogs from Hill Air Force Base to do sweeps of buildings prior to high-profile events such as preseason NBA basketball games and religious functions held at the Dee Events Center. In recent years, this has become more difficult because many detection dogs are being deployed overseas. For example, when a bomb threat at the Alumni Center in December 2005 forced the evacuation of the building, it took several hours to obtain bomb-detection dogs and clear the building for re-entry.
Now, Balou and Moore will be available within minutes, even if the unit is off-duty. "This gives us an immediate response in the event of a bomb threat, instead of a multiple hours-long wait," LeBlanc said.
One thing Balou will not do is sniff out narcotics. "You can't cross-train a police dog with narcotics and explosive materials," Moore said, "because if they find something, you're not sure what they've found."
According to Moore, Balou likes to work and play hard. "He gets really excited on days when he knows we're going to be doing some field training," Moore said.
Balou, who stays in a kennel at Moore's house when off-duty, also is good with strangers, LeBlanc said. "We needed a dog like that for the campus environment," he said. "It is a huge asset for our department to have a police dog."
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