Gunther joining SU police
When students returned to campus following their holiday break, they were greeted by a new member of the campus police force. Two-year-old yellow lab, Gunther, is now on duty.
Originally hailing from Germany where he was specifically bred for police work, Gunther has completed canine training at the Southern Coast Academy along with his human partner, Officer Jim Cummings.
Cummings, who recently joined the university’s police force, had been a canine handler with the Corporation of Shepherdstown before moving over to serve as the college’s full time canine officer. Cummings had served part time on the force prior to Gunther’s arrival.
Cummings explained that Gunther is a non-aggressive dog which is what the University officials sought due to the student population. He is trained in narcotics detection and is able to find any number of illegal substances including but not limited to cocaine, marijuana, LSD and heroin as well as prescription narcotics.
Interim Police Chief Ed Boober hopes that Gunther’s arrival will play a role in diminishing the drugs on campus.
“It is a problem,” Boober said. “Marijuana is the key component on what is going on on campus. It is the main substance along with synthetic marijuana.”
Cummings explained that he and Gunther will participate in random “sniffs.” The term “sniff,” he said, is used rather than “search” because air is free. Searches may be conducted if there is probable cause, he said. Cummings and Gunther are not allowed to enter a student’s room without such probable cause; however, “sniffs” can be conducted in any common area including hallways.
“He [Gunther] will be able to detect substances from a hallway,” Cummings said.
The university felt that the acquisition of a dog like Gunther will benefit the force on campus as well as the community. Both Cummings and Gunther will be available to other police agencies in the county and neighboring areas. A sharing of resources has been standard and all of the canine units in the county train together, Cummings said.
The securing of Gunther for the force came with a total price tag of approximately $7000-11,000, Cummings said. While Gunther resides with Cummings and his family, the University pays for his food, toys, equipment and other needs. Hillside Veterinary provides free care to all of the county’s canines.
While Gunther currently serves only as a narcotics detection canine, he will receive further training in tracking and search and rescue. He will be able to assist in locating lost children and adults as well as in potential criminal apprehensions.
Gunther will not be trained in attack techniques. As Cummings explained, the University sought a passive dog for their force which led him to select the yellow lab.
“Labs have soft mouths which are not good for bite work,” Cummings said.
Gunther and Cummings work regularly scheduled hours as well as serve on an on-call basis should the skills of a canine be needed.