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    September 14, 2006
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Temple’s newest police officer


With the addition of Jake, the Temple Police Department’s bomb detecting capabilities have gone to the dogs.

 

Campus Safety K9
Jake, a shiny, black Labrador retriever, and Campus Police Officer Alan Kuterbach became Temple’s newest crime-fighting duo after completing about four months of bomb detection training at the Philadelphia Police Academy. Jake is the University’s first bomb-detecting dog.
(Photo by Ryan S. Brandenberg / University Photography)

Jake, the Department of Campus Safety Services’ new canine officer, is pretty hard to miss.

He’s a shiny, black Labrador retriever with a confident gait that says “I’m working.” While he won’t bite you if you try to pet him, it’s best not to do that because he may feel threatened and snap at you, says his handler, Temple Police Officer Alan Kuterbach.

But if you see Jake sit down, it might be best to leave the room. You see, Jake is a bomb detecting dog, and when he sits down, he’s telling everyone in the room that an explosive, or something that may be used as part of an explosive, is in the room as well.

“He’s trained to find 17 different types of explosive materials,” Kuterbach said.

Jake and Kuterbach became Temple’s newest crime fighting duo after completing about four months of bomb detection training at the Philadelphia Police Academy, said Captain Denise Wilhelm.

In a world that seems to have a new terrorist threat almost weekly, the decision to have Temple join Penn State, San Francisco State University, the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and Florida International University as a campus with a bomb detection dog seemed a logical one, Wilhelm said.

After talking to other universities that have bomb detection dogs and seeing how they’ve worked out for them, it seemed like a good investment for the University, she said.

“Because we have the Liacouras Center and host so many high profile events, we see [Jake] as a positive tool,” Wilhelm said. “We used to have the Philadelphia Police Department and SEPTA come to the Liacouras Center and do our bomb sweeps for us. Now we can do it.”

When he heard that Temple was getting a bomb-detecting dog, Kuterbach, who’s been a Campus Police officer for almost four years, jumped at the chance to be its handler.

He was interviewed for the position, went through the training, and now, Jake is a part of his family, he said.

Not that it was easy at first, Kuterbach admitted.

“I actually have a yellow lab at home,” he said. “At first, it was a little awkward. They weren’t comfortable with each other. Now, they’re best friends. They wrestle and play together. One dog takes care of my family while the other goes to work with me.”

It took a lot of training for both man and dog to be ready for their duties, Kuterbach said. In addition to Jake’s learning how to detect explosives, Kuterbach had to learn healthcare issues and the dos and don’ts of being a bomb detection dog handler, he said.

Not every dog makes the cut as a bomb detector, Kuterbach said. A dog that’s too aggressive won’t make it as a bomb detecting dog for obvious reasons. While drug detecting dogs and other types of canine officers are taught to tear into packages of drugs to see what’s inside, that kind of behavior from a bomb sniffing dog could prove disastrous, he said.

“If it’s an active bomb, it could go off if it’s licked or bitten,” Kuterbach said. “That’s exactly what you don’t want to happen.”

Jake has already made his mark, Kuterbach said. He’s done bomb sweeps at the Liacouras Center prior to events there and also helped SEPTA police officers with an emergency on one of its trains recently.

Police department officials are watching Jake’s performance before deciding whether or not to invest in another dog, Wilhelm said.

“We’ll see how successful we are with Jake and will go from there,” she said. “So far, it’s been wonderful.”

- Denise Clay

 

 


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