Jason Taylor

After the retirements of several UTPD officers, the department promoted 10 associate officers as part of its efforts to reorganize the department Monday.

UTPD chief David Carter said the promotions are significant for many reasons because the organization lost more than 100 years of senior leadership through retirements. The promotions included six officers to sergeants, three sergeants to lieutenants and one lieutenant to captain.

“Those people will be missed, and they cannot be replaced,” Carter said. “When you look at the people that are promoted to a senior leadership positions, you’re going to have great confidence and recognize that these new leaders coming into this organization will bring new ideas, be innovative and bring a renewed sense of energy to UTPD that we truly need.”

Patricia Clubb, vice president for University Operations, said new leadership is critical for the organization.

“There’s always a time any leader — no matter how successful they’ve been — may move on to other things, and it creates opportunity for everyone,” Clubb said. “We’ve had great success from everyone throughout the police department, and so it is wonderful when we have the opportunity for promotions.”

Carter, now in his seventh month as UTPD chief, said he is still in the process of reorganizing the department. Alongside the promotions, he said he plans to launch dedicated bicycle officer shifts after police cadets finish training with both the UT System Police Academy and UTPD. In addition, Carter said he wants to create a special projects division to help forecast and plan for the new police districts, such as the medical campus, as well as hire a new full-time crime analyst to see what is going on outside the parameters of campus.

Newly promoted sergeant Jason Taylor said he felt honored to receive a promotion but said he felt strange being called under a new title.

“I’ve been a police officer for 15 years, and to suddenly be called by a different rank is interesting,” Taylor said. “It’ll just take some time to get used to that. Everyone’s been pretty positive about it, so I don’t think it’ll be too bad of transition.”

Taylor said he was one of the lead officers who helped start the K-9 Unit more than 10 years ago. He said he will continue those duties, alongside additional responsibilities with his new title, which include serving as a patrol sergeant during the day shift.

“When we get staffed up, I’ll probably have six officers under me,” Taylor said. “There are the administrative duties of scheduling, payroll-type things, evaluations and counseling. In addition to that, I’ll manage our fleet of vehicles.”

Carter said he wants to foster better communication between officers and students to address important issues. 

“One of the things I really want to do is [have] even more interactions and one-on-one exposure between [the] police officer out there and the student out walking around, so that they can talk and exchange their own concerns and ideas,” Carter said.

Taylor said he believes in the department and its future regardless of any staffing changes.

“We have a lot of great people and great resources here,” Taylor said. “We also have a lot of young people coming on. [The department] has ten cadets in the academy right now, and they’re all coming to UT-Austin. I really hope I can be a positive influence on the officers. Somebody who they can look up … to provide support and be there for them to help them move along in their careers.”

Spike, seven-year-old canine officer, and his senior K9 handler Jason Taylor have been partners for three years.  Spike, the newest addition to UTPD’s pack of Belgian Malinois police dogs, also helps officers at other law enforcement agencies and is available to federal agencies upon request.

Photo Credit: Jarrid Denman | Daily Texan Staff

Two of UTPD’s most valuable resources are also the furriest.

UTPD currently has two canine officers on the street — Spike and Maatje — and senior K-9 handler Jason Taylor said the department is working toward adding a third before the year ends. The department’s canine officers are trained to detect explosives and bring down criminals, and according to their handlers, playtime and crime-time are one and the same.

Taylor works with Spike, a Belgian Malinois who has been with the department for three years and typically works the day shift. Taylor said Spike usually responds to suspicious package or vehicle reports throughout the day. 

“Belgian Malinois are like hot-rod German Shepherds,” Taylor said. “They’re lighter, faster-running and harder-biting.”

The department’s dogs are pre-trained, dual-purpose canines, Taylor said, which means Spike and Maatje are patrol dogs that can apprehend criminals and also sniff out explosives.

UTPD assistant chief of police Terry McMahan said the K-9 unit formed as a result of Sept. 11.

“The dogs are very valuable members of our team, helping with suspicious package reports and patrol,” McMahan said. “They also provide a lot of love and affection for the department.”

A tightly-knit bond between handler and canine is critical to the success of a K-9 unit, Taylor said, which is why Spike lives with Taylor.

“You need a bond in order to be a true team,” Taylor said. “You spend so much time together that the bond builds pretty quick and gets pretty deep … I like Spike because he’s a dog that likes to curl up next to you and hang out.”

Taylor signed onto UTPD’s K-9 unit in 2002 with his first Belgian Malinois, Robby. Robby retired in 2010 and passed away in December 2012. Taylor said Robby’s death was one of the hardest things he has ever had to go through.

“I still have bad days regarding that,” Taylor said.

Much like their human companions, Spike and Maatje have to keep in shape. Taylor said the two undergo continuous “maintenance” training. Although police dogs are usually taught to detect four odors, by the time Robby retired, Taylor said he taught Robby to detect 18 different odors.

Some of Spike and Maatje’s duties include extensive K-9 sweeps before, during and after large events like football games, but they are often called out to work with other law enforcement agencies, Taylor said.

“Three-letter agencies will call us to go help them out with security,” Taylor said. “That’s flattering because they have all the resources in the world, and they still come to us.”

Taylor said the price for a police dog depends on the vendor and the dog’s breed. For dual-purpose canines like Spike and Maatje, Taylor said the price can be as little as $8,500 or as much as $20,000. Spike cost the department roughly $12,000, Taylor said.