UND Police’s first K-9 officer sworn in; ready to take a bite out of area crime


David L. Dodds

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UND Police’s first K-9 officer sworn in; ready to take a bite out of area crime

University of North Dakota K-9 Police Officer "Ben," a two-year-old yellow Labrador retriever, raised his right paw and wondered what all the hub-bub was about.

Cloaked in a specially modified bullet-proof vest, the dog, flanked by about a dozen of his fellow University Police Department officers, took an oath of service to upload the policies and laws of the University, the University System and the State of North Dakota at a special swearing-in ceremony held Monday, Aug. 11, at the Chester Fritz Auditorium.

UND Police Chief Eric Plummer held Ben's paw and administered the oath, while Ben's handler, human Officer Jose Solis, recited the words for his four-legged partner in crime fighting. The duo promised to do all it could to take a bite out of crime on campus and in the community.

Solis' wife, Ashley, and his 16-month-old daughter, Abigail, took part in the ceremony by pinning Ben's police badge to his vest.

Just last week, after only a few days on the job, Ben assisted in his first arrest, when he was called to the scene of a routine traffic stop. The dog "alerted" to the presence of a substance inside the vehicle. During the search of the vehicle, officers discovered components commonly used in the manufacturing of methamphetamine. Two suspects were arrested and charged in that incident.

Humans, too

Ben wasn't the only new UPD officer to be sworn in Monday. Frank LaNasa Jr., 25, a native of St. Paul and Isanti, Minn., took the oath of service as well. LaNasa was joined at the ceremony by his father, Frank Sr., who pinned the badge on his son, and mother, Jean, his girlfriend, Urelle Stangler, and Mack Johnson, Frank Jr.'s longtime friend from Grand Forks.

A visibly proud Jean LaNasa embraced her son and showed tears of joy following the ceremony.

"I'm just bursting, right now," she said.

As a boy, Officer Frank LaNasa remembers going on multiple ride-alongs with his uncle, a member of the Minneapolis Police Force. That was enough to interest him following his uncles footsteps. LaNasa graduated from the Minnesota State University Mankato with a bachelor's degree in law enforcement studies. In 2012, he completed his Minnesota police certification course in Hibbing, Minn.

LaNasa formerly worked as a security officer in St. Paul.

Ben, the dog, was born on Feb. 21, 2012 outside West Fargo. He was bred to be a hunting dog, but his career took a sharp turn toward law enforcement in 2013 when he was purchased by the operator of Northwest Iowa K-9.

Ben is a certified narcotics detection K-9 and is able to detect the odors of marijuana, cocaine, meth, heroin and their sister narcotics. The dog's other skill is in finding missing people and items.

Ben was purchased for UPD in July with the help of the UND Association of Residence Halls. The dog works and lives with Officer Solis.

About 40 members of the public, including UND administrators Provost Thomas DiLorenzo, Vice President for Finance & Operations Alice Brekke and Vice President for University & Public Affairs Susan Walton, were on hand for the ceremony.

Plummer said, like all his officers, both Officer LaNasa and Ben embody the values of UPD: integrity, courtesy, service and professionalism.

"They will make a big difference not only on our campus but also in our community," Plummer said.

Check out the UPD Twitter account for news and updates.

David Dodds University & Public Affairs writer

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