“Alec,” an 18-month-old male Labrador Retriever, will be the newest officer for the UMass Police Department (UMPD) after he finishes an eight-week training session with the Massachusetts State Police Academy that begins at the end of October.
After a competitive process, Detective Gerald Perkins has been chosen to serve as Alec’s primary handler, and will be attending the eight-week training session with Alec.
According to Deputy Chief Patrick Archbald, Alec will be joined by a second K-9 after the state police department picks an ideal fit between dog and department.
“We’re all really excited to have the dogs,” said Archbald. “Alec has already had a meet and greet with our whole staff and there was a lot of positivity.”
Both Alec and his fellow K-9 will serve as Explosive Ordinance Detection (EOD) dogs, trained to sniff for bombs at commencement and other large gatherings on campus, although Archbald points out that bomb calls and events needing EOD are extremely rare and that 99% of the dogs’ work will be community outreach and student engagement.
“Our students will get to know our dogs as they will be sweeping academic halls in the morning and they will be on campus and at events,” said Archbald. “I wish we had five dogs. They’re a wonderful way to connect with the community and break down and real or perceived borders [between citizens and police].”
The UMPD has previously had three drug detection dogs that have all since retired; the last of which in December of 2014.
Alec was a leader among dogs trained to serve the blind that were repurposed to other jobs. He will begin work for the UMass Police Department as soon as he concludes his training at the State Police Academy.