IOWA CITY — With one K-9 officer recently retired and another nearing retirement, the University of Iowa Department of Public Safety recently bolstered its ranks with two new K-9 officers.
With the addition in March of four-legged officers Falo and Jago, the UI police department now boasts three K-9 officers, more than any agency in Johnson County.
Jackie Anderson, a three-year veteran of the department, patrols with Falo, and Jess Bernhard, a five-year veteran, patrols with Jago.
Officer Brad Schramm, who has been a K-9 handler for five years, continues to patrol with Barry — though the dog will be ready to retire soon, the UI police department boasts three K-9 officers, more than any other agency in Johnson County. In the meantime, he'll be showing Anderson and Bernhard the ropes.
While other law enforcement agencies in Johnson County use dogs trained in narcotics detection, UI deploys explosives-sniffing dogs.
"If you miss weed,
- Jess Bernhard
University of Iowa
Department of Public Safety
Because of their special skills, — Cedar Rapids and Marion police departments each have one bomb dog — the UI dogs are in high demand, Schramm said. He's been called out to Fairfield, Dyersville and the University of Northern Iowa. Last month, Bernhard and Jago were called to Davenport to search a residence occupied by a kidnapping suspect.
All three of the dogs are training in explosives detection, tracking, apprehension, and building, area and article searches. Commonly called bomb dogs, Anderson noted that the dogs also can find items that make smaller explosions.
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“We find ammunition, guns on traffic stops,” she said. “There are other uses besides big booms. We find little booms, too.”
The reasons for using three bomb dogs on campus instead of narcotics dogs are numerous, the handlers said. First, the University of Iowa hosts numerous politicians and dignitaries who require heightened security measures. The dogs also are used to do sweeps of Kinnick Stadium and Carver-Hawkeye Arena before games.
When they're not training or doing sweeps, the K-9 officers patrol like regular officers, albeit in vehicles outfitted for their dogs.
The new K-9 officers said they were compelled to apply for the position for various reasons. Both listed the bonds they have formed with their four-legged partners as one of the biggest benefits of the job.
“His number one purpose is to protect me,” Anderson said. “That's pretty cool.”
Bernhard, who worked with a Johnson County Sheriff's Office K-9 officer when he was an officer in North Liberty, voluntarily demoted himself from lieutenant to officer in order to be a K-9 handler. However, he noted the position is a “huge commitment” and can be highly stressful.
“If you miss weed, nobody dies,” he said.
In two weeks, the UI dogs will meet with agents from the FBI's Omaha field office to train on the latest scents in explosives manufacturing.