There are many students who join the cadet program with the Indiana University Police Department (IUPD) and one cadet stands out above all the rest. With his brown fur and wagging tail he’s ready to serve and protect.
Indy is the newest member to join the IUPD within recent months. His K-9 handler, Patrol Officer Robert Botts, fills us in on Indy’s backstory.
“He was bred at Mackinaw Valley,” Officer Botts said, “They had a litter of pups, they only do one every other year or so it’s not like a puppy mill or anything like that, they’re very responsible breeders.”
Even Indy’s parents are one of a kind, “His mom and dad both are field trial champions, so they’re bred for their smelling capabilities.”
Before the department found Indy, they knew they had to find the perfect dog. “Our Bloomington handler and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agent that we used as a consultant for training me and Indy they spent quite a bit of time looking for the right dog, and he fit.”
Since this was the department’s first ever K-9, they wanted to make sure they paired Indy with the right handler, they actually picked him before the handler was selected.
Officer Botts has been a part of the IUPD family since 2000 and has always wanted to work with K-9s. “It’s totally a dream job,” he states, “I wanted to work with a dog, and we didn’t have a dog and I’ve been working a long time on getting a dog here.”
He even went the extra mile to have the opportunity to obtain a dog, “I went out and did some fundraising and things of that nature, brought some money into the program to help pay for the equipment, pay for the training, to pay for him,”
Officer Botts describes the first time meeting Indy as “love at first sight.”
While Indy isn’t the only K-9 that IU has on their team, Officer Botts sees more room to grow. “We have one other dog in the system, K-9 Zeus, and he works out of the Bloomington campus with handler Ryan Skaggs, he is a 3-year-old chocolate lab and he’s been on the job for two years.”
“They’ve had a K-9 down in Bloomington for six or seven years now, the first dog they had was a retired military dog, his name was Terry, and then when he was retired they got a new handler and a new dog, they had a process similar to how we did it,” Botts said.
After they acquired Indy, they also acquired all of his information, “We know everything about this dog, what he’s done, what he’s been exposed too, what he has yet to be exposed to, we know that today [this past Wednesday] I imprinted the 13th odor.”
“We’re taking a little bit different approach with him [Indy] where we’re doing everything by hand,”
While Indy is stationed here at IUPUI, Officer Botts stated that IU athletics in Bloomington paid $15,000 for his acquisition and training. So, Officer Botts started to explain what Indy’s day to day training is like.
“We were training with state police and we were in a building not too similar than this [Ball Hall] with a great big long hallway and he actually pulled me all the way down the hallway into the room and he caught the odor from seven or eight rooms away, and pulled me directly into the room and all he needed to do when we got into the room was locate the actual source of the odor,” Botts said.
“We train every single day, I have had the luxury of being detailed to train him every day, I’ve been taking off shift work for that so we’ve been training every single day for the last, almost 10 weeks and so that began as imprint training which is we would put odor in a small can, a sniffer can, we present it to him, he’d smell it, and I would feed him a couple of kibbles of food. We do that for 180 reps a day, we did one odor a day for the first couple weeks, then we went back through the list.
“We would hide it in various locations throughout the room and make him actually work for it and try to find it. At first, he was doing it with his eyes, and then he figured out that if he used his nose he could find it a lot faster. I was learning right alongside him to watch for changes in his behavior and so he throws really good clues when he gets into odor, he’ll be just kind of walking along, kind of at a normal pace and when gets an odor his nose will come up in the air and his head will go side to side, his pace will pick up, his tail will go up in the air, his ears will go forward like he’s heard something. All of his senses become a little more heightened.”
Already he’s proven that he will be an excellent addition to the IUPD family, “What we’ve done as a department by acquiring him is we’ve put ourselves in a better position to be more functional as an independent fully functional law enforcement agency, so it’s just another tool in our toolbox,”
Not only is Indy being trained to find explosives, but he’s also doing a little bit of evidentiary work as well, “We’re doing explosives and firearm-related evidence, so spent shell casings, magazines and firearms.”
Officer Botts even provided an example of what kind of situations Indy would be called in for, “We actually had a shooting right outside of Eskenazi Hospital, right up there at that second stop sign, a couple of years ago and we spent a long time searching for shell casings, and he could’ve covered that entire area in a matter of a couple of minutes.”
Indy has gained a huge following on Instagram, with over 520 followers in a little over a week. As Indy grows in popularity, Officer Botts hopes that other campuses will follow suit. “The plan is moving forward is for us to add dogs both here and in Bloomington and then for the regional campuses to come on board with whatever they may need, we’ll be asked at some point I’m sure to work other campuses.” If you would like to keep up with Indy and possibly find out where he will be on campus you can follow him on Instagram @iupdk9indy.
While Indy will be helping out at other campuses Officer Botts informs that, “He’ll be here all the time but he’ll be down there [Bloomington] quite a bit too.”
Officer Botts also educated us on what Indy could be doing in the future, “he’s also expected to go to IU basketball and football games and then other large sporting events, so we’ll be working in Bloomington quite a bit but our main responsibility is here, so all through the summer and the spring we’ll be here but obviously basketball and football will take up a lot of our fall and winter time.”
He also informed us on certain situations Indy would not be deployed for, “we wouldn’t deploy him on a suspicious package,” Officer Botts states, “but backpacks sitting in a room that’s unattended, unless it’s a situation where there’s no earthly reason for a backpack to be there that would be something we would use him for, specifically here on campus things we would do sweeps with him with like pre event sweeps, like the Olympic Swimming and Diving trials.”
In the future, Indy will also go up for several different certifications. “There are two types of certification, that we’re going to send him through one of which is the ATF NORT, National Odor Recognition Test, so once he’s certified on that he can work large scale security events, and then dignitary protection details for secret service events,” soon not only will Indy be able to help on campus, he can help all of Indianapolis as well.
While Indy may not be completely done with his training, he’s well on his way to becoming an excellent member of the team. “If he maintains the current trajectory that he’s on now he’ll be NORT certified in June, but that’s not the goal, the ultimate goal is getting him certified in October through another certification that is associated with the state police, so that one he’ll definitely be ready for, so basically October is when he’ll be deployed as a solo working dog.”
Throughout the semester and many more semesters to come Indy will be around campus. Before you consider to approach Indy, Officer Botts politely asks for you to ask him before you pet Indy. “What we are trying to advise everybody is to ‘ask before you pet’,” Officer Botts ensures that 99 percent of the time he will say it’s okay to pet Indy and states that Indy loves to get pets. However, he would like for you to ask him first because he may be training or on call at the time.
Officer Botts later discusses the future goals that the department has for future K-9’s, “We want to become a K-9 training center, the IU police department has its own training academy it’s the only program like it in the entire country.” He also states that he wants to be “the best explosive detection K-9 team in the state and I think we are well on our way,”
He even goes as far as to compare to the cadet program, “with that mindset of us being a training forward department, state-wide, we want to build a program to a point where people will bring their dogs to us to train so he’s been an experiment that has worked really well.’
Overall Officer Botts thinks that this something that the campus has needed for a long time, “it’s a need that I don’t think folks understand that we’ve needed it and now that we have it it will justify itself pretty quickly, so not to mention the community outreach has been phenomenal, I’ve met more folks in the last couple of months than in the last 18 years that I’ve worked here.”
When thinking about police dogs in general Officer Botts does identify the stigma that many K-9’s have. “He’s literally here to help make everything more safe, so I think there is some misconceptions about what a police K-9 does, there’s lots of different police K-9’s and as you see Indy is calm, he’s very pettable, he’s very approachable, he’s very friendly and I don’t think that’s ever going to change.”
Even in Indy’s home life, he’s just like any other dog, “he lives with me [Officer Botts], I have another lab who is 8 or 9, he’s a rescue dog, with him being 8 or 9 he was kind of moping around the house,” even when he interacts with other dogs he brightens their day, “once Indy came home it’s totally re-energized him he almost acts like a puppy again, so it’s been great,”
“He’s a phenomenal house dog, he’s a great pet but he’s very very good at what he does, he is like the perfect dog because he earns his keep and once we go home he’s just like any other dog. He’s loveable, he’s cuddly he gets on the couch and watches TV with you, so he’s my pet that I get to bring to work and work with me.”
At the end of the day, Officer Botts hopes that, “we never find anything that’s not in a training scenario, but we’ll be ready to if we ever have the opportunity.”
So far Indy’s successful training exercises has allowed Officer Botts to gain his trust for any future situations, “I trust him [Indy] one hundred percent, we’ve been working ten weeks he hasn’t thrown a negative or false indication on me yet.”
Officer Botts states that Indy will be certified by October and the main goal is to get him ready by football season.