CHAPEL HILL – Local law enforcement keep the community safe but they don’t do it alone. Working alongside the officers are the dogs of the K-9 Units. They hunt-down suspects, search out drugs and detect bombs.

“It’s vital to the safety of all of our officers,” said Sergeant Gabe Shinn of the CHPD.

“It’s crucial that we have the dogs to find somebody hiding somewhere, particularly if they want to do us harm. Dogs can sniff out suspects hiding in a wooded-setting, in buildings, or anywhere really. The dogs have the ability to detect that odor long before we see that person—because we may not see them,” he said.

Shinn says the CHPD has three drug-detecting and pursuit trained dogs with a keen sense of smell that’s more significant than their ferocious bites. They are not trained in bomb detection.


Environmental conditions can throw the dogs’ scent-tracking skills. It’s easier for them to pick-up a trail in colder conditions. When it’s hot, Shinn says it’s crucial for the dogs to get to a crime scene as soon as possible because odors will dissipate quickly.

“We want to use the dogs anytime we can. It’s an unpredictable job. We don’t know what we maybe walking in to. We don’t know what may be waiting around the corner,” Shinn said.  “It’s better for us to know it before hand than to find out when we are right on top of it.”

The dogs can also move fast. Shinn says in a foot-chase situation, he has never seen a suspect out-run a police dog.

The CHPD’s three dogs are named MJ, Jax, and Kernie; MJ lives with Shinn, and the other dogs live with officers as well. Shinn explains this encourages strong relationships between the dogs and their handlers.

CHPD has the budget for a total of four dogs. With MJ is retiring soon, Shinn says they’ll bring-in two more dogs sometime this year.

But police dogs are expensive, costing upwards of $10,000. However, the CHPD’s dogs were bought from private donations.

Shinn says police dogs are usually brought over from Europe, the breeds being German and Dutch Shepherd, and Belgians Malinois.

The dogs complete 14 weeks of training before going out in the field. They additionally train every week to keep their skills refined.

Bomb Detection

The UNC Department of Public Safety’s K-9 unit is made-up of Buddy, who’s been with them since August of 2007.

Buddy specializes in bomb-detection.

Randy Young of UNC DPS explains their K-9 Unit began in 2004. Young says like other police dogs, Buddy is great with people but is all business during high-profile community events like football games.

“He’s also extremely professional when he needs to be and is viewed as just like any of our other officers here,” Young said.

Buddy is trained in the identification of 25-30 different chemicals essential in most explosive devices. UNC DPS lends him out to other jurisdictions for big events.

His handler, Officer Jeff Mosher, trains Buddy twice a month.