Officer ‘Ben’ a two-year-old yellow lab, and Officer Jose? Solis make up UND police’s first K-9 unit


Amy Halvorson

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Officer ‘Ben’ a two-year-old yellow lab, and Officer Jose? Solis make up UND police’s first K-9 unit

University of North Dakota Police Department (UPD) has sniffed out a new ally, which happens to walk on four legs, is covered in fur and loves tennis balls.

This new addition to the UPD goes by the name of "Ben," a two-year-old yellow Labrador retriever, trained to sense narcotics and track people.

Officer Ben as he's known– yes, he even gets a rank -- and his handler, Officer Jose? Solis, make up the UPD's first K9 unit.

"(Having the K9 Unit) pushes us to the next point of providing greater services to the campus community," said Sgt. Danny Weigel, sergeant of investigations and K9 Unit coordinator. "It offers services that a human physically can't do."

With narcotic searches, Ben and Solis will be able to help the UPD locate marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin. They will be available to perform narcotics searches in parking lots, residence halls and traffic stops, to name just a few places.

The K9 unit will be involved in the tracking of criminals as well as in reuniting missing individuals with friends and loved ones. With his keen nose, Ben is able to track people. For example, if a child wanders away from home Ben, with his keen nose, and Solis would be able to track down the child and keep him or her from harm.

Ben will be cared for by Solis, who applied for the position and was chosen through a selection and interview process.

"I like to educate our community on narcotics and their effects" said Solis. "And what better way to do that then to get a K9 and work as a handler?"

Prior to working as a handler, Solis was assigned to the night shift as well as daytime patrols. He has been with the UPD for three years and is originally from Kerkhoven, Minn.

Solis had to go through two weeks of training, of 8-10 hour days, in order to be qualified as Ben's handler. In addition, both Ben and Solis are required to train eight hours each month, but they hope to double that. They will be receiving their national certification from United States Police Canine Association (USPCA) as well.

The UND Association of Residence Halls (ARH) provided the initial funding to kick-start the K9 Unit and will be holding a naming contest for the students to select Ben's nickname.

With the aid of the K9 Unit, UPD hopes it can continue its success in making the UND campus community a safe place to live, learn and work.

"Overall, it's a great program and we're very excited to continue to build relationships with our campus and community," said Weigel.

Amy Halvorson University & Public Affairs student writer

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