Video by Allison Royal and Ayrton Ostly
After months of fundraising and training, the University Police Department (UPD) has two new K-9 units to add to their force.
UPD held a fundraiser in the beginning of the year to raise money for the dogs. It costs $80,000 for a K-9 unit, which includes a customized K-9 car, training for the dog and officer, food, veterinary costs and housing for the dog. As a result of donations, the department was able to receive one five and one two-year-old german shepherd. These dogs are trained to have many search skills.
“It’ll be a patrol dog and then we are also going to train it in tracking,” UPD Chief of Police George Hughes said. “We can also train it in drugs and bomb sniffing.”
The five-year-old K-9, Xello, already has a history of tracking. His handler, officer Stephanie Pipan, said that over the past five years, Xello has found numerous children and elderly people who were missing.
“He can track on asphalt, concrete, or anything that is hard surface,” Pipan said. “A lot of dogs have a hard time with it. You have to be fully trained.”
UPD had been using dogs as part of their patrols in the past, but these K-9s were borrowed for the San Luis Obispo Police Department and the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s department. In January when there was a bomb scare on the city buses, Hughes said the department had to borrow resources. Having trained K-9 units within UPD will help in situations like this.
Yet these K-9s are not just police dogs, Pipan said. They are also community dogs.
“They are not just for the students and faculty,” Pipan said. “They’re great protectors for all of us. The tracking is a great service for all of us.”
The other K-9 unit, including two-year-old Brizaunt, just started as a tracking unit. He and his handling officer just arrived from training in Germany. Xello, on the other hand, worked in the Morro Bay Police Department for five years before Pipan transferred to UPD. Pipan has been Xello’s handler for his whole career and she is happy to be part of it.
“So this is probably the best job I’ve ever had,” Pipan said. “I’ve always wanted to be a K-9 officer. Having a K-9 is the best job ever.”