Campus News

UKPD Recognizes Specialized K9 Unit

UKPD K9 with handler
UK Police Department K9 with handler.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 31, 2022)  Thirteen K9s have served within the University of Kentucky Police Department (UKPD) since 2004, including an explosive detection K9, Becka, and a narcotics K9, Gus. 

This year, UKPD is recognizing these K9s and the department’s specialized K9 Unit.

Maj. Rob Turner, handler for K9 Becka, started the K9 Unit and has since been able to see it grow.

“Becka was the best partner, and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity and support from the university when I was a part of the K9 Unit,” said Turner. “I will keep these memories for the rest of my life.”

In 2011, the K9 unit added K9 Odie, explosives detection and tracking, along with K9 Baska, narcotics detection, tracking and evidence recovery. The following year, UKPD welcomed K9 Pink, retired U.S. Marine Corps explosive K9, who was partnered with her current handler Capt. Michael Pope. K9 Pink retired from UKPD in 2016, but Pope continued serving on the unit, and K9 Ira was added to the team. 

“Joining the K9 unit in 2012 had a huge impact in my law enforcement career,” said Pope. “K9 Pink and K9 Ira became an everyday part of not only my work life, but a part of my family. The training and work that these dogs do play a significant role in providing safety to our UK community.” 

In 2017, the unit added its very first critical response K9, K9 Oliver, to provide support for individuals involved in high stress incidents or situations. During this time, K9 Caro and his handler Lt. Jake Finley were brought on for the narcotics detection, tracking and evidence recovery. 

Today, the UKPD K9 Unit has five certified active K9s serving the community. Three are trained and certified in explosive detection, including K9 Junior (Lt. Ryan Johnson), K9 Kinder (Officer Tanner Reynolds) and K9 Pip (Officer Will Milton). Two are trained and certified as critical response K9s, including K9 Hudson (Officer Michael Culver) and K9 Brady (Officer Olivia Steddom).

UKPD Chief Joe Monroe attributes the department’s ability to respond to situations effectively and increase security when necessary is because of the K9 Unit.

“Our K9 Unit plays an instrumental role in police operations,” said Monroe. “They make our job easier by being able to help prescreen facilities for explosive detection as well as venue safety.”

He also noted their compassion in distressing situations, often being able to provide a sense of calm in the community or in the workplace.

“Critical response K9s are the way of the future,” said Monroe. “They are an excellent resource to break down communication barriers between law enforcement and the community, which is something we strive to do every day.” 

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.