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.”
The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers." We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.