Operators Of The MonthTransit Police

K-9 Milo helps keep transit safe; RTD to add three more K-9s this year

Tara Broghammer

As RTD K-9 Milo boarded the A Line with RTD Police Department (RTD-PD) officer Corey Averill, his K-9 handler and caretaker, it was another day at the office as Milo assessed rail cars to identify suspicious or harmful substances and help keep transit safe for customers.

K-9s are invaluable partners for RTD and police officers, sweeping stations and patrolling trains and buses to identify dangerous or illicit materials, including homemade to military-grade explosives. K-9s can travel with their handlers anywhere across the agency’s 2,342-square-mile district to perform their work.

When a K-9 gets on a train “the people who are probably doing things they shouldn’t be doing scatter,” Averill noted.

Given their unique abilities and enthusiasm for the work, finding a dog suited for being a K-9 can be a challenge.

“Milo’s drive is through the roof. All he wants to do is hunt,” Averill said, who likens finding K-9s to a subset of people who can work in special forces or the Navy Seals. “The demand is high and obviously we want the work to be fun for the dogs.”

Milo joined the RTD-PD in August 2023 and Averill, already a trained K-9 handler, stepped in when Milo needed a handler. Averill and Milo had previously spent 10 weeks together in training, which made the transition for working together easy. Within a week, Milo became certified for the field with Averill.

Milo is a two-year-old Belgian Malinois born in Hungary through a bloodline bred specifically to be a police dog – evident in Milo’s love for the work.

“Milo would actually probably work until he passes out – I have to force him to take breaks,” Averill said.

The transit environment requires K-9s to “nonstop get on trains, check around. They’re very hard-working dogs,” Averill said. Whereas a pet might prefer affection, K-9s often prefer the thrill of the hunt on the job.

“You want the dog that drives people nuts at home where you think: ‘I cannot take this dog.’ That makes a good working dog. The higher-drive dog you get, it lives to do this,” added Averill.

This requires K-9 handlers to be dedicated in working with their K-9 partner.

“An excellent K-9 handler is someone who is also driven, with a lot of energy to match the dog’s energy with an equal dose of patience,” Averill said. “To see them in action when you go out on the trains and buses, it's incredibly rewarding, especially that bond that you get with the dog.”

Training for K-9s never stops. K-9s complete 10 weeks of training that includes imprinting with odor detection and patterning, which is checking all four corners of an area while patrolling. K-9s also participate in weekly training throughout their service to maintain the credibility of their ability to perform work in the field. The dogs also recertify with their handlers annually.

For people interested in petting a K-9 while it is on the job, “the best thing to do is to ask the handler because the handler knows the dog the best. In the case of Milo, he is driven by work,” Averill said.

Petting a dog while on duty also can be distracting or confusing.

“Some dogs might start to value getting attention more than working,” said Averill.

Like humans, K-9s also enjoy some time for recreation. The last time Milo found a shell casing, he received a reward – his favorite toy.

“He was so happy because he got his toy, and I was happy because you get to see that the training has transitioned to the real world.”

The bond between a police officer and their K-9 is incredibly strong. “It's definitely a stronger bond than you're going to get with your house pet because I literally spend more time with this dog than I do my wife because I'm with him at work for 40 hours and then I go home and I spend my weekend with him too,” Averill said.

Through a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), three additional RTD-PD K-9s will join Milo on the force later this year which will benefit RTD customers and the community.

“The additional K-9s are going to have a huge impact on trains, buses and stations. It’s going to reduce crime in the areas we visit. Even with working only with Milo, the quality of the work he does has blown me away,” Averill said.

Scroll down to hear RTD-PD officer Corey Averill highlight the importance of a K-9's training.

By Tara Broghammer

K-9s undergo lifelong learning

RTD Officer Averill and K-9 Milo