MUPD's K-9 team does more than sniff out explosives
The most recognizable member of the University of Missouri Police Department works for toys.
Nothing makes Brass happier than a hunk of old fire hose and a raucous game of tug of war with his partner Officer Joan Haaf after a tough shift searching for explosives.
Brass, a four-year-old German shepherd, joined the force in 2015 thanks to a donation from Jim and Billie Silvey. Born and bred in Holland, he originally earned explosives detection dog certification through the North American Police Working Dog Association. Each year since, he has been certified through the Missouri State Police Canine Association.
Brass is one of only two explosives K-9 in Boone County. He is trained to sniff out 18 components commonly used in making explosives.
“Brass is an awesome partner to work with and very good at his job,” says Haaf, who’s spent much of her 39-year law enforcement career working with and training patrol dogs. Brass is her fourth police dog and the first one trained to detect explosives. The two are on call 24/7.
“When you train these dogs, you make it a game for them,” Haaf says. “That’s what motivates them, getting that toy reward.”
Brass works with Haaf to patrol campus and sporting events, sweep buildings and respond to bomb threats. On the job, Brass is eager, laser focused and downright dogged.
MUPD Chief Doug Schwandt says the K-9 team brings much needed skills to the department.
“With the number of special events and dignitary visits on our campus, it is critical to our mission at MUPD to have an explosive K-9 to help support safety at our university,” he says.
Brass and Haaf train once a week for two hours. On this day, the pair are training at a building on the former Boone County fairgrounds with Chris Smith, a canine trainer and handler with the Boone County Sheriff’s Department. They are met by the K-9 explosive team from the Boone County Fire Protection District, Captain Martina Pounds and Luke, a 3-year-old German shepherd/black Labrador mix.
The dogs wait in their respective vehicles while Smith – out of sight of the Haaf and Pounds - hides four training explosives. After 15 minutes to allow the scent to permeate the area, the search begins.
Brass goes first. He bolts out of the police vehicle, ears perked, tongue lolling and eyes ablaze. Brass is on a mission. First, he does a cursory search of an area, making a wide sweep of the location. When he doesn’t hit on a scent, Haaf takes him through a more detailed search, directing him up and down and all around to cover every nook and cranny.
Before long, Brass zeroes in on a closed cabinet drawer. He sits tall, proud and perfectly still; his determined eyes glued to the find. It’s a hit.
Smith tosses the dog a hunk of firehose, and Brass pounces, shaking the hose with pure abandon. Haaf reaches down, and the partners play tug of war.
“This is what it’s all about for Brass,” Haaf says. “It’s all fun and games.”
Chief Schwandt says Brass also plays an important role as a goodwill ambassador for the department.
“Having a police K-9 makes an officer much more approachable to the public, helping to facilitate good conversations between community members and our officers,” he says. “Brass is a valued and important member of our agency.”