Two-year-old black Labrador Retriever, Piper has been seen around campus with Sergeant Detective Matt Paris; do not miss the opportunity to introduce yourself and become familiar with the new addition to West Chester University’s Department of Public Safety. Although she is trained and recently completed the certification necessary to earn a police canine badge for drug detection, missing persons searches and crime prevention, Piper resembles and exudes the playfulness of an ordinary family pet.
Both Paris and Chief Michael Bicking believe that the decision to obtain canine officer assistance has proven to be proactive. Piper is generally used one to two times per month, more frequently depending upon the request for her help by other agencies.
Through feedback from the Resident Directors, they have found that Piper is greatly appreciated in the residence halls. Additionally, she offers an opportunity for increased positive interaction between the students and Public Safety officers.
As the second school in the Pennsylvania state system to evoke canine officer assistance, the WCU students and faculty are provided with the opportunity to learn more about Piper’s role on campus. Paris even brought her into James Brenner’s Drugs in Society class for a demonstration.
On Tuesday, Jan. 22, Piper received her police canine badge from Joseph Carroll, the district attorney of West Chester, and President Madeleine Wing-Adler for the completion of her certification and reaching national standards.
Although her training began before she joined Public Safety, Piper’s abilities have continued to improve since Paris went through the initial six weeks in training to become familiar and in sync with Piper’s actions and the meaning behind them. His trust in her increases as they spend more time together, and he has developed a stronger ability to interpret her actions.
According to Paris, after receiving permission to have a dog on campus, Public Safety specifically requested to have a Labrador, as the breed is the very image of a loving pet, as opposed to an aggressive or dangerous animal.
So far, Paris observed that students have initially neglected to approach he and Piper, perhaps because there is uncertainty in how the dog will behave. Rest assured, Piper is affectionate and loves attention. Although a lot of her time is dedicated to work, Piper transitions easily back to play time when her services are not needed.
“It is amazing to see how a dog can understand and differentiate between work and play,” Bicking said.
Following Piper’s completion of certification, as long as she is a part of Public Safety, she will undergo the conditioning of her skills for a minimum of 16 hours per month.
On a daily basis, Piper strengthens her abilities by detecting an illegal substance that is hidden from her by Paris in order to provide her with practice. Upon the detection of drugs, Piper points her nose in the direction of the substance, and immediately sits down in order to indicate that she has identified the scent and location of drugs. She will repeat these actions until an officer has found the illegal substance.
Piper’s behavior while she is working is valued, as some dogs tend to rip or destroy evidence after its detection. On average, dogs used in law enforcement have careers for a duration of about eight or nine years, so Piper can be expected to stick around WCU for awhile.
Alison Butler is a third-year student majoring in English with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at AB614083@wcupa.edu.