Police let the dogs out by Wilbur Cross
Police dogs show off their skills at USG sponsored demonstration
The criminal ran across the Wilbur Cross Green as University of Connecticut Police Officer Christopher Worchel yelled at him to stop. Atlas, Worchel's canine partner, strained at his leash before he was released with the command "Get him!"
Atlas clamped down on his target's arm with force many times more powerful than a human's, and would only release with his partner's command.
Fortunately for Officer Paul Osella, there was a heavy padded sleeve between his arm and the 75-pound German shepherd, and this was just an apprehension demonstration at the UConn Police Department Dogs and Dogs event.
The event allowed students a chance to see the UCPD outside of confrontations with students and see the skills of its K9 and Rape Aggression Defense officers and enjoy a picnic provided by the Undergraduate Student Government.
Worchel and Osella demonstrated obedience and tracking skills as well as apprehension with their dogs, leading them around the field and showing off the dogs' skill at tracking scents.
The dogs are given extensive training to follow their handlers' commands, responding to verbal and non-verbal directions, and are rewarded with a tennis ball for a job well done.
"After repetition, after time, they know what they have to do," said Osella.
The dogs and trainers go through a rigorous 16 week training program, in which the dog gains the basic skills needed to become a valued member of the police force. The training continues over the dogs first year of service as the handler and animal gain experience with each other.
"We spend so much time getting into the dog's world," Osella said, "I want him to think of me as the pack leader."
According to Worchel, the dogs are used for evidence recovery, tracking and protection, but the most important use for the animals is general deterrence of dangerous situations.
"By having the dog just go by a bar barking, it stops people from doing things they might try if the dog wasn't there," Worchel said. Worchel and Osella were present at the riots that occurred after the UConn's basketball championship victories running crowd control.
Osella's dog, Hagar, is also the UCPD narcotics dog, with additional training to sniff out drugs and illegal substances, something he is especially suited for thanks to his curiosity and high work drive, said Ocella.
Attendees also had the chance to watch demonstrations by students and instructors from RAD instructors.
Officer Eric Bard wore a full suit of foam armor as students of the rape-deterrence program demonstrated how to escape a potential abductee. Situations included escaping attackers from the front, rear and in enclosed spaces through strikes to the head, stomach and groin while shouting at the attacker. Even though he was wrapped head to toe in protective gear, Bard said that he could still feel the power behind the blows.
"The whole point is to feel the impact and react to it," Bard said.
RAD instruction seeks to instruct women on strategies to avoid abduction and being aware of potentially dangerous situations, even more so than the act of physically deterring attackers.
"The main thing for us is to teach the girls that their life is in their hands," Bard said.
Women's RAD classes are available through the UConn Police Department. Men's classes are also available, focusing more on de-escalation of situations and avoiding confrontations.
USG President Edward Courchaine, one of the event's organizers, was happy with the event, and was happy to see guests asking questions and engaged in the demonstrations and discussions. Courchaine said that USG would be looking into ways to make the event even better, and potentially make it a regular event on the UConn calendar.
"The single most important thing is that people can talk to the UCPD," Courchaine said. "They are a part of the UConn community just like everyone else on campus."
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