Meet Fillmore, a 3-year-old black Labrador retriever and badge-carrying member of the Towson University K-9 Patrol Unit. Together with his handler and fellow police officer Cpl. Andrew Cline, he works hard to keep the campus community safe and drug-free.
For years, police departments have utilized the special skills of canines—from beagles to bloodhounds—to more effectively enforce the law. Dogs are trained to find drugs, guns and bombs, and to pursue suspects.
Fillmore was adopted from the Labrador Retriever Club of the Potomac about a year and a half ago and has been a scent-trained canine officer ever since. “Labs have a great sense of smell, and are really energetic. They’re good all-around dogs and very determined to find what they’re trained to find,” explains Cline.
That determination pays off for the TU police; Fillmore is trained to find nine different kinds of illegal drugs.
To become a certified police officer, he underwent a six-week scent training program with the Baltimore County Police Department. “We start with obedience and teach him basic commands,” says Cline.
“For scent training, we put his favorite toy—a tennis ball—inside a Tupperware container, and have him smell several containers. One of them holds his toy, and he eventually learns to alert us to the toy by sitting down. Then, we put drugs in the container with the toy. Once he starts alerting to the drugs, we take away the toy. After that, he’s trained to search rooms and vehicles.”
To stay up-to-date, Fillmore must by law receive refresher training twice a month, and be re-certified twice a year.
He lives with Cline, and eats a special, high-protein diet. “He’s an especially active dog and he burns it off quickly,” laughs Cline. They drive to campus together for their shared shift, and respond to calls in a police truck equipped for canine passengers.
If the unit receives a call that isn’t drug-related, Fillmore stays in the truck. “The K-9 Unit vehicle has been modified with a ‘Hotdog’ alert system. It has a temperature gauge and I have a beeper, and if it gets too hot in the car the windows will automatically go down, a fan will blow on Fillmore and I’ll get an alert,” explains Cline.
When not responding to calls or performing traffic stops, the pair traverses the campus on foot, patrolling the grounds and meeting students. “We don’t get calls every day, but we try to get around campus every day. People love to see Fillmore.”
TU's K-9 Patrol team is one of just a few university-based units in the region. Fillmore is the third police dog to work for Towson, and will remain with the unit for as long he stays healthy. Should he sustain injury that would prevent him from performing his duties as an officer, he will retire.