GW is considering the purchase of police dogs for bomb and drug detection, a GW official told The Hatchet Friday.
Robert Chernak, senior vice president for Student and Academic Support Services, said the University may buy a drug-sniffing dog to help with enforcement of drug laws and a bomb-sniffing dog to help handle bomb threats.
Chernak said no decisions have been finalized, but that a bomb-sniffing dog would be “worthwhile” because Metropolitan Police have not been responding as quickly to on-campus threats in recent years.
“A dog is a possibility, we have talked about using trained dogs for handling bomb threats…especially when the terror alert goes up,” Chernak said.
UPD Chief Dolores Stafford was unavailable for comment Friday.
The University received several bomb threats following September 11, and the last reported bomb threat near campus took place at Tower Records in March 2002.
Chernak also mentioned that a drug-sniffing dog “has been on the list of possibilities for a while” but no final decisions have been made regarding the purchase or how a dog would be used.
He said no decisions have been made about whether UPD would conduct random searches or whether a dog would be used to search already- suspect rooms, but said the University isn’t looking at significant changes unless there are specific concerns.
“We haven’t seen any pronounced differences or a dramatic increase in the number of SJS cases regarding drug-related charges,” Chernak said. “Absent something that is a cause for alarm, we will continue to do the same thing.”
But he said if drug cases increase, purchasing dogs is one of the “variety of strategies that (GW) has on the back burner to address the revolving situation.”
Chernak said GW needs to continue to be vigilant in its drug policies, and buying a drug-sniffing dog would increase the University’s ability to combat drug use.
“If you don’t use drugs, the dog can be a pet; if you do use drugs, the dog can be a threat,” he quipped.
UPD is also awaiting a D.C. City Council bill that would give University Police authority to make arrests on public spaces within 20 square blocks of campus boundaries. A hearing will take place on June 19 regarding the bill, which has already received support from multiple city counselors.
Some students said they are not concerned about terrorism near campus, but said the purchase of a bomb-sniffing dog, if deemed appropriate by the University, would be fine with them.
Senior Jason Cabrera said acquiring a bomb-sniffing dog was “a legitimate safety precaution,” however he questioned if it was a wise use of funds.
However, most students viewed the acquisition of a drug-sniffing dog as an unnecessary step.
“A drug-sniffing dog is an invasion of privacy. I’m concerned about the implications,” Cabrera said.
“Where do you draw the line?” said senior Regina Valdes, noting that GW already has strict drug enforcement policies. “Its just too much. (We are) not a police state.”
-Jonah Zinn contributed to this report.