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The newest officer in UNC’s Department of Public Safety is trained to find explosives at large-scale University events as well as track missing persons and fleeing criminals. This one also happens to have a furry coat, a wet nose and a wagging tail – and he understands commands in Czech.
His name is Atos, and the almost 2-year-old German shepherd is the newest addition to the public safety squad.
The new K-9 unit – Atos and his handler, Officer Davoren Carr – made UNC’s public safety department the first in Orange County and the first college or university in the state to have a K-9 unit trained in searching for explosives and in tracking.
Atos, who was trained in the Czech Republic, will work during all large-scale events, such as football and basketball games, as well as high-profile speaker events. Police officials said it is another way the department is keeping security at UNC on the cutting edge, especially in the wake of Sept. 11.
“Public safety’s job is not to be reactive – it’s to be proactive,” Chief Derek Poarch said. “It only made sense to us to acquire this new tool to be more proactive.”
The public safety department previously has used K-9 units from other police departments during large events.
Atos’ primary functions will be detecting explosives. He has been trained to identify and track the scents of up to nine of the chemicals most commonly found in explosives. He also can track the scents of people.
Carr said she has learned to communicate in Czech with Atos. She is teaching him some general commands in English for things that she said aren’t “critical,” but she said that commands involving Atos’ work in finding explosives will remain in Czech.
Carr and Atos will go for their certification through the U.S. Police Canine Association in the fall.