By Hartley Robinson
University Police Department Officer Chris Parker spends his weekdays working diligently to keep UM students, faculty and staff safe. He does so with an equally dedicated partner, Dios.
Parker and Dios make up the university’s K9 unit and have been working as a certified team since August of 2018. These two are trained for a variety of circumstances including drug searches, safety and therapy.
Dios is a four-and-a-half-year-old Belgian Malinois, originally born in the city of Best in the Netherlands. Many police service dogs like Dios are bred and trained in Europe. As a result, they receive the majority of their commands in that native language. Parker instructs Dios using Dutch verbal commands as well as a particular set of hand signals.
Dios received his K9 training at Vohneliche Kennels in Denver, Indiana. The duo received their team certification at Southern State K9 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. They also have two national certifications, American Working Dog and National Narcotics.
Dios specializes in narcotics and patrol but is also trained in apprehension.
Parker said he dabbled as a handler from 2004-2005 while in the Air Force. He assisted with Argo, a German Shephard MWD (Military Working Dog). According to Parker, these K9s are trained to stay with their handler under all circumstances. In the tragic event that something happened to Argo’s handler, Parker was trained to be able to step in.
“I used to give him gummy bears,” Parker said. “We didn’t have much for treats, and Argo seemed to really like them.”
After his years of service, Parker got his first K9 of his own – Dios.
“It scared me,” he said. “I don’t half-way do anything. I want to be good at whatever I am doing and being a handler is a really big job.”
Dios had one previous handler but has bonded very well with Parker since they began working as a team. He lives with Parker, as most K9s do. Dios is an active dog that enjoys making friends and meeting students. He also has an extreme affinity for chasing tennis balls.
But despite Dios’ many friendly attributes, he understands when he puts on his K9 unit collar he is going to do his job.
“Dios placed third in the state of Mississippi in K9 training, meaning he is one of the best,” Parker said.
Dios has a strict exercise regimen, which Parker works daily. It includes throwing a ball so that Dios runs short sprints similar to the sprints he would be running to apprehend a criminal. The two also frequent the campus’ intramural fields where Dios must jump over four-foot fences.
They also train with the Oxford K9 unit each week.
“Dios and I are deputized, meaning if the county or city needs a track, a building search, or a sniff, we have the certifications to respond anywhere in the state,” Parker said.
In 2016, officials at the University decided that having a drug dog on the UPD force would serve as a deterrent to keep people from bringing illegal substances onto campus.
“It’s about the criminal element,” Parker said. “It’s not students so much as sellers and transporters attempting to distribute these substances here. When we run an interdiction on probable suspects, we conduct an interview and if we are denied a search I can say, ‘Oh alright I can just go get my dog.’ That usually changes the situation.”
This school year alone, Dios and Officer Parker have found heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, MDMA, and more on campus and areas surrounding campus. They conduct regular searches of the library and common areas at the University. They will also do occasional sweeps of the fraternity houses.
“Our goal is education before enforcement,” Parker said.
He wants students and others to know Dios’ position on campus and as a result, be deterred from drug activity.
Parker and Dios also visit the EDHE class—a high school to college transition class for freshmen—at the university each year to discuss active shooter protocols.
“Dios really doesn’t like gunfire. His natural response around gunfire is to fight harder, run harder, and bite harder when I give him his target,” Parker said. “Dios’ and my job in such a situation is to keep the shooter’s attention on us, not the students. I give him hand signals for tactical movements and attacks, while I lay down suppressive fire.”
Officer Parker encourages students to introduce themselves and give Dios the pets he so adores.
Follow the team on Instagram, @k9_dios, to keep up with their daily adventures.