Alum Spotlight: Jeff Kiser

Special Agents

Only six other people in the world do what Michigan State Evans Alum Jeff Kiser does - he's a federal agent with a special kind of partner.

Jeff Kiser training with his dog, Reno.

Special agents Jeff Kiser (MSU '86) and Reno knew they were hot on the suspect's trail.

They’d been tracking the runaway killer down the streets of Detroit for two and a half hours, and Reno knew they were closing in. Then suddenly, the trail was gone, replaced by the scent of gasoline and burnt rubber. The criminal had escaped.

But not everyone is so lucky.

"A lot of times, Reno will chase someone down and apprehend them, which is a nice way of saying he bites them," Kiser laughed. "There’s always that split second on every deal where I see the guy look at Reno, and they just give up. It’s exciting."

Kiser has a job only seven people in the world have. He’s a special agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, but his partner makes him a unique kind of special agent. His partner’s name is Reno, and he’s a 4-year-old German Shepherd.

Kiser and Reno specialize in high-risk missions, "the worst of the worst," Kiser says. They execute arrest and search warrants for the ATF. Reno is an expert at sniffing out the bad guys. Literally. He specializes in detecting human scent.

"When people need help, they call the police," Kiser said. "When the police need help, they call us."

And the police call from all across the nation. While Kiser and Reno are meant to focus on the Midwest, they travel to all corners of the country because there are so few dogs that do what Reno does.

"Reno probably has about 300,000 air miles," Kiser said. "He loves flying. He’s like a little kid going for a car ride. He flies in the cabin with me. He lays on the ground and goes to sleep. A lot of passengers will say they didn’t even know there was a dog on the plane."

Kiser has always wanted to work in law enforcement. He graduated in 1986 as an Evans Scholar from Michigan State University, which has one of the nation’s best criminal justice programs.

"I don’t know if I would have been able to go to college if I didn’t get the Evans Scholarship," Kiser said. "It’s one of the prerequisites for the job to have a four-year degree."

Kiser started working for the ATF in 1987, just one year out of college. He started working with Reno three years ago.

"I’m a dog lover to begin with," Kiser said. "But to go to work every day with my dog, to train him and watch him learn and grow is a very rewarding position, the most rewarding job I’ve ever had."


-First printed in the Summer 2011 WGA Evans Scholars Magazine