Drug dog joins UPD

Ben the drug dog. Photo by Chester Beltowski.

UND’s new drug dog, a yellow lab named Ben, had already detected a mobile meth lab before the start of the semester.

But, Ben is on campus for reasons other than just detecting drugs for the UPD.

“Ben is here for three main points,” Plummer said. “Number one is as a deterrent for people to bring illegal substances on our campus. Number two is to aid in the search for missing people. And number three is to be like a therapy dog for students.”

Ben also will serve in a role outside his law enforcement duties. He will serve as a therapy dog for campus.

“Students will get to interact with Ben in the common areas of the residence halls,” Plummer said. “Ben is not here to be going door-to-door rooting out issues. The goal of Ben is to act as a deterrent and to make sure students feel comfortable with police presence in our community.”

Ben is primarily on campus, but he will also be utilized by the Grand Forks police department, the Sheriff’s department and any other local agency that requests his assistance.

The initial cost of the dog was $7,500, and there will be more expenses with him over the  coming years.

“The continuing costs are going to be borne by drug seizures that we have,” Plummer said. “We use that funding to supplement the ongoing costs of having the canine, to pay for things like food and medical expenses.”

Programs are being set up now between the UPD and the Association of Residence Halls through the Adopt-A-Cop Program, to allow students to interact with Ben and learn about the dog’s role in law enforcement on campus.

“When you meet him you will understand that he’s not like a regular police canine,” Plummer said. “A lot of people think of German Shepherds, that are kind of intimidating. Ben is by no means intimidating. He’s a very friendly dog who loves to slobber on people.”

This was one of the main points of discussion between members of the Association of Residence Halls when talks of a drug dog started. They wanted a dog that was to be a student pet, that students felt comfortable interacting with. A yellow lab was chosen for their characteristically friendly and easy-going personality.

Since Ben is to be an officer as well as a pet, the RAs are going to be having a naming contest to come up with a nickname for Ben.

Ben is like a regular officer and has a patrol shift, but when he’s not on duty he resides with Sergeant Jose Solis, the canine handler, and his family. When Sergeant Solis is off duty, Ben is handled by Sergeant Danny Weigel, who is the canine coordinator. Both of them have been specially trained to work with Ben.

“He has a purpose where he will find drugs,” Plummer said. “He’s an officer, but he’s also here to give people a little piece of home at the university.”
Ashley Carlson is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected].