The newest addition to the UCF Police force boasts dark brown eyes, a wet nose and a fluffy coat of fur. Clad in his very own police vest, Buster the K-9 dog is Officer Matthew Scott's newest partner in crime — putting a stop to crime that is.
K-9 Officer Scott was selected to join the UCF PD's K-9 unit this past November, and will be certified Thursday.
"I have certain goals and outlooks on how I want to be a K-9 officer, and I want to try to bring that to the position and to the community at large," said Scott, who is a UCF grad of 2011 with a master's degree in criminal justice.
After a K-9 handler had retired, Scott jumped on the first opportunity he could to try to get in the unit.
Although he has had previous experience as an investigator and community service officer for the agency, he said there are a lot more expectations as a K-9 officer.
There is a lot involved in the job, as Scott said a K-9 officer is responsible for being cognizant of everything, while keeping an eye on the dog at the same time.
"Our mission here at the university is to provide a safe environment for all the students, faculty and staff members," Scott said.
Not only was UCF PD in search for a new handler, a new K-9 dog was needed as well.
Buster, Scott's new 19-month-old wing man, cost approximately $8,500, and is currently training to be a narcotic-detection dog — fulfilling 480 hours for certification.
During training, scent boxes are placed around a room with a variety of drugs: three blank and one live. Sniffing for the drug, Buster has been trained to sit at the correct box, which then dispenses a toy to let him know he did well.
While there are many pros to having a dog by his side — such as finding and biting suspects in specific crimes — Scott said the definite con would be the strong bond that forms, which almost makes him forget that the dog is a tool for law enforcement.
"It becomes your best friend. I spend more time with my dog than with any of my family members. Sometimes you don't want to put your best friend in harm's way, but that's the job," he said. "He's my partner. I trust him, and he looks to me for everything."
While some dogs are kept overnight in crates at other forces, the agency at UCF requires officers to bring their partners home with them.
Scott and Buster are with each other 24/7, but it is made clear that home is a place for rest, and the fun is at work.
UCF PD's K-9 unit has always stuck with four dogs: two bomb dogs and two narcotics.
Cpl. Chuck Reising revitalized the program as there were only two scent-dogs in the unit before his time at UCF.
Reising explained that Buster, along with the other dogs in the unit, was purchased through the help of UCF's Cornerstone classes, where students practice entrepreneurial thinking, communication and teamwork.
About two years ago, Reising was able to add the K-9 unit to the list of organizations for which the Cornerstone classes raise money to purchase dogs.
"Every semester for the last two and a half years, I've had groups of students going out and raising money for us," he said. "We get between $3,000 and $4,000 each semester, which goes into a separate K-9 fund."
Gabrielle Schlumbohm, a junior economics major, is currently in a Cornerstone class to raise money for the next K-9 dog.
"We were able to build a special connection with the team and the dogs," she said. "It feels powerful to say that I made a lasting impact on my community."
Chelsea Moore, a junior human resources management major, is in Schlumbohm's group and has also gained insight on the K-9 unit's contribution.
"Seeing the work these officers do, I am honored to help such a great organization," she said.
UCF's Delta Delta Delta sorority also contributed to the K-9 unit, raising $5,000 last spring for the purchase of Buster.
"Earlier this semester, [UCF Police] went over there one night and introduced Buster to all the women," said UCF spokeswoman Courtney Gilmartin.
Gilmartin said the community has been influenced to keep the dogs here and help fund them.
Jessica Vasquez, a junior biomedical sciences major and president of Tri Delta, said the sorority's contribution benefits not only UCF, but the community as a whole.
Tri Delta member Marissa de los Reyes, a senior legal studies major, volunteered to run the fundraising event.
"We feel proud that we were able to give back to a university that has given us our education and opportunities through Greek life," she said.
Rachel Stuart is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @RachSageor email her at RachelS@CentralFloridaFuture.com.