Electronic detection K9 joins BCA

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension on Wednesday announced a new member to its investigations team — Sota, an electronic detection K9.

Sota is the first electronic detection K9 in the state, according to the BCA.

Sota is able to recognize the odor of triphenylphosphine oxide, or TPPO – a chemical coating on all memory storage chips in electronic devices, to locate evidence for investigators.

The 2-year-old British Labrador was trained in Michigan to be a service dog but was found to be too high energy for that role and made the switch to electronic detection training in Indiana before coming to Minnesota.

“K9 Sota is trained to help find tiny pieces of plastic that may contain critical evidence in a case,” said BCA Superintendent Drew Evans. “Adding her to our team will help the BCA further strengthen our cases involving predatory criminals.”

According to the BCA, Sota will primarily work on child exploitation cases across the state but will also work in financial crimes, homicides and other cases where electronic storage devices may contain valuable evidence. She is partnered with BCA Special Agent Lucas Munkelwitz who works in the BCA’s predatory crimes section.

Electronic detection K9s are still relatively new, according to the BCA. Two years ago, only three such K9s worked in the U.S. Now, the BCA said there are about three dozen.

Sota officially started at the BCA in May and has worked 10 cases since then, locating 21 pieces of potential electronic evidence, including a meticulously hidden cellphone from a homicide case, in that time.

The BCA received K9 Sota thanks to the organization Operation Underground Railroad, which purchased her and paid for her training – about $15,000 in total. The only costs incurred by the BCA are her kennel, food and vehicle equipment.

“The BCA is fortunate to receive a K9 of this quality who is trained and ready to go,” Superintendent Evans added. “We are grateful to have K9 Sota here at the BCA working cases in Minnesota.”

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