ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension on Wednesday, Sept. 16, formally welcomed the state's first electronic device-sniffing dog into its ranks.
Sota the British Labrador has already assisted the BCA on 10 cases since May and has so far located 21 different pieces of evidence, the bureau said. Though she is trained to work on violent crime and financial crime investigations, BCA Superintendent Drew Evans said, she will primarily aid authorities on child exploitation cases.
"Those are the cases where we’re locating people that are trying to exploit our children online. Whether it be through child pornography investigations or those contacting our children online, these types of evidence are critical to proving those cases, to holding those accountable who choose to try to hurt our children across our Minnesota," Evans said at a press conference Thursday.
Sota can locate electronics like cell phones, and even small devices such USB drives and memory storage cards, because she is trained to recognize the scent of triphenylphosphine oxide, or TPPO, a type of chemical coating. During a homicide investigation, Evans said for example, she managed to locate a concealed cell phone later used as evidence.
The $15,000 cost of purchasing and training Sota was paid for by Operation Underground Railroad, a non-profit anti-human trafficking group. According to a BCA news release, Sota was first trained to be a service dog in Michigan.
She proved to be too energetic for that, though, and was transferred instead to learn electronic device detection at a training center in Indiana.
She is partnered with BCA Special Agent Lucas Munkelwitz of the bureau's predatory crimes section.