Saturday, December 3, 2016

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A Nose for Trouble

Brico, the SDSU Police Department's service dog, and his handler Corporal Smith help keep SDSU safe.
By Ashley Vaughn

When diginitaries like His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama visit San Diego State University, they can feel safer knowing this officer is on duty.

However, he is not your average detective.

Cpl. Smith and Brico.

He can apprehend a hidden suspect in less than two minutes, and his very presence can make any criminal think twice before acting.

He is Brico, the 7-year-old service dog for the SDSU Police Department K-9 Unit.

To protect and serve

Brico, along with his handler, Cpl. Smith, maintain the safety of faculty, staff and more than 30,000 students on campus, as well as the surrounding community.

According to Smith, Brico’s presence on campus has a positive impact on more than just safety.

“The K-9 Unit not only acts as a deterrent, but it helps create a stronger sense of community," Smith said. "In many aspects, Brico works as a bridge that brings together the community and officers.”

Specially trained in explosive detection, Brico assists on searches for high-profile events on campus. In addition, Smith and Brico work for outside agencies and the surrounding community.

A dog unlike any other

“Brico is very active and energetic by nature, but he is very dedicated to work," Smith said. "As soon as he hears the velcro from my vest, he starts jumping up and down and spinning in circles. He lets the whole world know we are going on patrol by barking constantly as we drive to work.

Police service dogs live with their handlers and become an essential part of their life. When Brico is not working, he is playing with Smith's personal dog at home.

Contrary to popular belief, police service dogs are not selected for aggression. Police dogs are selected based on their personality with regard to high sociability and desire to please their handler, not aggression.

While Brico may be playful, he knows when it’s time to get serious.

“He doesn’t get to do things that normal dogs do," Smith said. "For Brico, work is play.”

Brico and Smith joined the SDSU Police Department’s K-9 program in 2009, after completing six weeks of suspect-apprehension, handler-protection and article-search training at the K-9 academy.

Smith became interested in the K-9 Unit after assisting in researching K-9 policies, training options and grant funding for the SDSU Police Department.

“I was very interested in not only the officer-K9 relationship but in the capabilities of the K9 and how much they can assist police officers,” Smith said.

The SDSU Police Department’s K-9 Unit was established in 2006 with the first police service dog, Nemo. Nemo was purchased through a grant from the SDSU Aztec Parent’s Foundation.

Mourning the loss of an officer

In 2011, Nemo retired from service and sadly passed away in Feb. 2012. Smith, who watched Nemo grow into a well-known and respected police service dog was very close to him.

“Nemo was the kind of K9 you could take to the Children’s Center and make the kids’ day a better one. I truly value Nemo’s service to the department and his loyalty to his partner,” Smith said.

After all, it was the accomplishments of Nemo and his partner that paved the way for Brico and Smith.

Today, Smith and Brico conduct traffic stops, check buildings and respond to calls for service in the SDSU area. They can often be seen conducting routine training for explosive detection on campus.

“The advantage of working with a K9 is that you have a loyal partner who is going to do whatever he can no matter what the situation is. The disadvantages are that my uniform is never clean, my patrol vehicle always smells like a dog, and there is hardly a quiet moment.

"While working with a dog requires a lot of patience, it is also extremely rewarding.”