When you hear his name, you’re likely to immediately think of one of his fictional character namesakes -- America’s favorite purple dinosaur or Sheriff Andy Griffith’s devoted deputy sheriff, but this “Barney” is a four-legged canine that recently became the newest member of the UNC Charlotte Police Department. Learn more about K-9 Officer Barney in this Q&A conducted with Chief Jeff Baker and Sergeant Santerrio Johnson.
When did K-9 Barney join the UNC Charlotte Police and Public Safety (PPS) Department?
He came to UNC Charlotte in early September after he completed training at Ventosa Kennels in Scotland Neck, NC. They are among the largest K-9 training facilities in the nation.
What is Barney’s age, breed and special skillset?
He is a two-year-old Labrador Retriever. Barney’s unique skill is that he is an explosive ordnance detection dog or, as most commonly referred to, he is a bomb dog.
Why does PPS require an explosive detection dog?
The addition of a PPS K-9 program is the continuation of the department’s efforts to keep the campus community safe.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were seeing an increase in larger crowd attendance at special events on campus such as football games and Commencement. Since we usually have bomb dogs brought in by other agencies for these types of events, coupled with the addition of an on-campus light rail stop, we knew we needed to be equipped with in-house resources in preparation for large events and the crowds they will likely attract when allowable post-pandemic.
It is imperative to understand that Barney is not an arrest canine, and he will not be used to apprehend anyone -- his primary role is explosive detection.
Although his primary role is explosive detection, does Barney have other skills?
In addition to his ability to detect explosive compounds, when perimeters are established, he is able to track a person’s last known point and help with article searches (i.e keys, guns, and wallets). Because the state requires him to complete a minimum of eight hours of training per month, we dedicate two hours per day to ongoing training. Most recently, we began working with him on locating shell casings.
It is becoming more broadly known that people should avoid interaction with service dogs, but can people pet Barney?
Yes -- he enjoys the attention and likes to be loved on. Labs are very gentle, unassuming dogs and they tend not to be intimidating. We hope members of the campus community will embrace Barney. As we move throughout campus, people are encouraged to stop us and ask questions to learn more about what he does.
Tell us about K-9 Barney’s handler, Chief Baker.
Barney is partnered with Sergeant Santerrio Johnson who has been a part of PPS since 2013. An Air Force veteran, Johnson began his career in law enforcement in his hometown of Columbia, SC in 2010. He was an ideal selection as Barney’s handler because in addition to his enthusiasm for the value add of a PPS K-9 program and his compassion for canines, he also had the capacity to incorporate another dog into his home.
Interview: NiCole Lynch