Campus, News

Meet Porto, UPD’s newest detection dog

Since 2017, the University Police Department (UPD) K9-Unit has consisted of only golden Labrador, Avery. However, 3-year-old German shorthaired pointer Porto is shaping up to be the newest pup on the block, along with his handler Corporal Luis Rocha.

Porto works at the UPD as a detection dog, trained by Rocha to search for firearms, explosives and ammunition. His primary role on campus is to help provide protective sweeps ahead of large events and meetings, which are often conducted at the CSU Chancellor’s Office and Walter Pyramid.

He shares his workload with Avery and her handler Sergeant Ray Gonzalez, who was an important resource for Rocha when he first received Porto.

“I went to the police academy with Sergeant Gonzalez and when he had Avery, I used to tag along with him now and then and pick his brain,” Rocha said. Rocha put in an application to receive a detection dog and received then 2-year-old Porto.

“He came with no training and he was super energetic. He’s a sweet dog, a big baby,” Rocha said. “His nose is extremely good and he loves working because he knows he’s going to get a toy at the end when he does his job correctly.”

According to Rocha, he travels to Anaheim, Orange County or Ventura to train with Porto weekly and often works with him on basic commands at home. Training consists of putting odors in different environments and teaching Porto how to signal when he detects the smell of explosives, firearms or ammunition.

“I have to read his indicators, whether it’s his body language or how he reacts. That is what I’m getting training on, how to read his body language,” Rocha said.

Porto and Rocha work together to create a mutual language that helps Rocha know if there is a possible threat and where it’s located. The process requires months of consistent practice and constant correction.

“Just like how you and I work, if he doesn’t train he can forget how to do things. I got to make sure I’m doing everything I can as his handler so he can do the best job he can do,” Rocha said.

While the work is constant and often tedious, Porto enjoys his days off by playing with toys and interacting with students on campus. Rocha said that he often takes Porto for walks around campus to get him used to students, as well as to use him as a tool to connect with the student community.

“He’s a good bridge with the community. It opens up doors where I might interact with someone and our conversation lasts one to two minutes. But with him, it typically leads to an individual petting him and we start talking about random stuff and our conversation lasts 15 to 20 minutes,” Rocha said.

Rocha plans to continue training and working with Porto in the future. According to him, detection dogs typically stay in police service for a long period of time compared to other police dogs due to lower stress levels on the job.

To learn more about Porto’s appearances on campus, visit his Instagram here.

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