Meet Kent State Police Services’ First K-9 Unit

A new four-legged friend has come to the Kent Campus as Kent State University’s Police Services welcomed Coco, a 2-year-old German Shepherd who, together with her partner Officer Anne Spahr, form Kent State Police Services’ first K-9 unit.

Coco is trained in evidence search and recovery, area searches and tracking, but is mainly trained for explosives detection and can recognize more than a dozen related odors.

“The relationship between Coco and me is very fine-tuned and is a big learning process, especially for new handlers like me who have never handled a working dog before,” Spahr said. “There’s a lot of training involved, so she’ll be trained every month. I’ll continue to train with her on-shift and make sure she’s kept fresh and interested in working.”

Adding a Police Dog to the Force

Spahr said the department talked to other K-9 unit handlers about purchasing and training a dog and chose to go to Von Der Haus Gill K-9 Academy in Wapakoneta, Ohio. The facility matched her with Coco from Germany and did all of the training on-site.

“It’s kind of like for dogs and people,” Spahr said. “I just told them what we were looking for.”

Besides Coco, there is only one other K-9 unit in Portage County trained for explosives detection. This influenced Kent State’s Police Services’ decision to obtain a police dog.

“If Kent State receives a bomb threat, we are better able to respond to the threat in a shorter amount of time and with more resources,” said John Peach, Kent State’s director of public safety and chief of police. “By having a certified K-9 within the department, it automatically enables the police department to have mutual aid with all other police departments that have K-9s, and possibly lend the unit out to other departments in urgent need of a K-9 tracker or bomb dog.”

Trusting Your Partner

Spahr said she has learned the importance of trusting Coco.

“When dogs are trying to tell you something, they are pretty much always right,” Spahr said. “During training exercises, when we would run tracks for Coco to track people, I might have had it in my head that the person went one way. And then I kind of pulled her off the track and tried to lead her, so that’s a mistake I made a couple times.”

Getting to Know Coco

Coco is a sweet dog who loves attention, and she can be petted if people ask for permission. The only time she cannot be touched is if she is performing a specific duty of her job, Spahr said.

“With only the little bit of time that Coco has been working on campus, it is very clear that she is a big hit with students and staff, alike,” Peach said.

For more information about Kent State Police Services, visit

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UPDATED: Thursday, June 20, 2024 02:47 PM
Bryan Webb and Amanda Lang