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Rochester school district to use drug-sniffing dog

By SmokeTwibz, Apr 11, 2012 | Updated: Oct 9, 2012 | | |
Rating:
4.5/5,
  1. SmokeTwibz
    Rochester Public Schools has a new weapon in its arsenal to keep illegal drugs out of schools. His name is Chase, a Belgian Malinois whose nose is so keen that it can detect the scent of a narcotic an hour after it has been removed from a can.

    The Rochester school district for the first time plans to use Chase and other drug-sniffing canines to prevent and keep illegal drugs out of its three high schools.

    "I guess my message to students is: We don't want drugs in our schools," Rochester Police Sgt. Mike Drees, who oversee the department's K-9 unit, told the Rochester School Board at Tuesday's meeting. "If we have to have drugs somewhere, go back to the dark alleys and dark corners and hide where police officers are trained to locate you."

    Rochester Superintendent Michael Muñoz's decision to take a more aggressive stance on drugs in the district's schools was first announced Monday night in emails sent out to parents of students at the three high schools, where the searches will be conducted. In the email, Muñoz said, the drug-sniffing dogs would be used "in the near future" in the high schools, and that schools would be in a lockdown drill during the search to minimize distraction to students.

    Southeastern Minnesota districts have used K-9s in the past. Drees said his dogs have conducted searches in Dover-Eyota, St. Charles and Byron schools. But the use of such dogs would be a first for Rochester schools.

    "My whole purpose of this is prevention," Muñoz said. "It's about creating a safe learning environment, and this a piece of that."

    Rochester district leaders and Rochester police have been talking about using drug dogs in the schools at least since last summer. Rochester Police Sgt. Eli Umpierre, who oversees the schools' liaison officers program, said she first broached the idea with Muñoz soon after he came aboard as the district's new leader.

    "It's something that I have felt should be in the school district for a number of years," she said.

    School and police officials say it's hard to state with precision the scope of the drug problem in Rochester schools. Umpierre said she wasn't aware of any statistical data to compare with previous years or that quantify the issue. But she said you can talk to any student who attends Rochester or a school the size of Rochester, and they would likely acknowledge an awareness of the presence of illegal drugs in the schools.

    "I think you could ask any current or former student of this or any other school district about our size and you'll be widely told that, 'yes, we are aware that there are drugs being used and sold in our schools,'" Umpierre said.

    One southeastern Minnesota district to employ such canines this year is Kingsland School District.

    Kingsland Superintendent John McDonald said the program has had a "positive effect" on students and the learning climate. Once or twice a month a drug dog makes an unannounced visit to the Kingsland school, sniffing locker vents and backpacks and nosing around the student parking lot.

    But measuring the effectiveness of such programs in any empirical sense is "difficult" because officials often aren't certain of the prevalence of the problem in the first place. McDonald said data privacy concerns prevented him from sharing information about the number of times dogs have alerted and found illegal drugs on Kingsland school premises. He said the district plans to continue the program in the fall.

    "I believe it creates more of a sense of safety and security, in helping keep our schools hopefully drug free and creating a positive learning environment," he said.

    Unlike Rochester, whose drug-fighting program will be a collaboration between the district and Rochester police, Kingsland employs a private firm called Interquest Detention Canines to make monthly and twice monthly visits.

    During Tuesday's board meeting, Drees demonstrated how Chase went about finding drugs. Placing four silver cans on the floor, Drees told the board that he had placed one gram of marijuana inside one of the cans four hours ago, and had taken the marijuana out an hour earlier. Then Chase — who is trained to find marijuana, cocaine, Ecstasy and methamphetamines — went to work. Darting from can to can like a dog looking for a ball, Chase "alerted" in front of one of the cans to signal that he had found a drug presence.

    Rochester district and police officials plan to build awareness about the program in the coming days and weeks. Full-scale assemblies are planned at each of the three high schools, so students can see for themselves how the dogs and their handlers work.

    That will be followed by searches of all three high schools sometime in the indefinite future. During the searches, the school will be in lockdown mode and students confined to the classrooms while one or two K-9 units search parking lots, sniff around lockers, and roam common areas such as gyms and cafeterias. If a dog alerts on a locker, that locker and the lockers on each side will be searched. It is unclear at this point whether such searches will become a regular practice in the schools.

    Drees anticipated that some parents will complain that their child's civil rights are being trampled by the searches, but he said the intent is to create a safe learning environment without imposing undue pressures on students.

    Umpierre emphasized that the purpose of the program is not to ring up more arrests.

    "It is not our goal to create more criminal charges against any student or any person in the Rochester Public Schools," Umpierre said. "It is our goal to prevent, by use of awareness, that a dog could be brought into the school to look for drugs, so they do not enter the school."

    Apr 10, 2012, 10:47 pm
    By Matthew Stolle
    The Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

    http://www.postbulletin.com/news/stories/display.php?id=1492697

    Author Bio

    SmokeTwibz
    My name is Jason Jones. I'm from Rochester, MN and I'm 35 years old. I scrap metal and work as grounds keeper at a local trailer park. In the winter, I shovel a bunch of driveways and sidewalks to make some extra money and to stay busy. In my free time, I try to find interesting articles about the war on drugs that I can post on Drugs-Forum, so that the information can reach a wider audience.

Comments

  1. SmokeTwibz
    I just read this article on my local newspapers website, although, I'm not too surprised, I am a bit disappointed. In my opinion, this is a waste of the police department’s resources and should not be allowed. I believe this is “the powers that be” attempting to normalize this sort of thing with the future generations of this country.

    Does anybody else think this is a bad idea?
  2. godztear
    This is common practice in Illinois, at least it was when I was in high school 2001-2004. The staff and police officers would run dogs threw the hallways at random times when classes were in session. It was pretty common to see the police in the parking lot as well.

    It scared some people into not bringing anything to school, but quite a few blew it off as nothing and kept toking every day before class ;)
  3. candyangel420
    Yep. Same in Maryland, at least from 2000-2002 when I was there. (Went to 4 different high schools) But I do remember that multiple times throughout the year, they would bring in the drug dogs while we were in classes. It also seemed like they specifically walked the dogs near the "trouble maker's" lockers/cars. One kid who flew under the radar had a fairly large amount of weed in his locker. Another kid who was always in trouble had stems and seeds in his car. That was enough for him to be brought in.

    Ugh. I hated high school.
  4. Emin
    Why does news keep popping up on DF that's about small towns in my small state? So weird.

    I remember in high-school they would bring dogs in every once in a while. They would also bring in bomb-sniffing dogs which would confuse and scare me and my friends to run out of school haha. Good days.

    Once, they called in the dogs and they were hitting on one locker in specific. They open the locker and it had a huge bong in it. It turns out that it was the principal's son's locker haha!
  5. SmokeTwibz
    Rochester students introduced to drug-sniffing dog
    [imgl=white]http://www.drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=28843&stc=1&d=1349809509[/imgl]Students at John Marshall High School on Wednesday got their first introduction to Chase, one of several drug-sniffing dogs that soon will be making surprise drug searches at Rochester high schools.

    Police and school administrators used an assembly to allay concerns students might have about narcotics dogs such as Chase, a Belgian Malinois-Shepherd mix that wagged its tail during the assembly. Narcotics dogs are safe, passive by nature and search for drugs as a kind of game.

    Officials also emphasized that students have nothing to worry about if they've done nothing wrong.

    "It does not mean that as soon as the dog sits in front of your locker, you're going to get handcuffed and get hauled away in a squad car," JM Principal High School Principal Tim Limberg told several hundred ninth-grade students. "It does not mean that at all."

    The JM assembly was the first to inform students of the new practice since Rochester Superintendent Michael Muñoz announced last week that the district planned to use drug drugs for the first time to ensure a safe, drug-free environment for students.

    Sometime in coming weeks, each of the three high schools will be put in lockdown mode and searched for narcotics by seven to nine K-9 units. Officials say the focus of the searches will largely be hallways, lockers and common areas such as bathrooms and cafeteria. For the moment, there is no plan to search parking lots or classrooms, but future searches could expand to include parking lots.

    The assembly was also the first for many students to see a drug dog in action. Directed by its partner, Sgt. Mike Drees, Chase nosed around on stage until he alerted to a wooden box that an hour before had held one gram of marijuana. Chase is trained to find meth, heroine, Ecstasy, marijuana, cocaine and crack.

    In interviews, many JM students said they had little problem with the searches, which they saw as a safety measure. A couple said they were aware of students who do drugs. A prevalent sentiment expressed by students is that John Marshall is a safe school.

    "I wouldn't say there's been a super-harsh reaction," said Joseph Boettcher, a JM senior. "(No one) is surprised, because they see why it would be a safety issue, why they would bring the dogs in. I have no problem with the idea."

    Tyler Olson, a ninth-grade student, said he didn't feel as if his civil rights were being violated by the upcoming searches.

    "The lockers are not really ours. It's the schools," Olson said. "They can check to see what's in their school."

    JM ninth-grader Roohi Katarya called the K-9 searches a "good idea," because she knew for a fact that there are students who do drugs. She said JM was "definitely a safe school."

    Ninth-grader Sarmad Khalil said, "In the end, it's the student's problem. If the student wants to study, he's going to study. If the student wants to do drugs, he's going to do drugs. But to make the school safe, that's a good thing."

    Mahleek Pilarski, a JM student, said he knows a friend who "has some" illegal drugs, and he is not happy about the impending searches.

    "People spend a lot of money on getting the stuff, and to get it taken away without making any profit back, it's kind of like losing a paycheck," he said.

    Police have made clear that the intention of the searches is not to lead to mass arrests of students. They say that if a dog does alert in front of a student's locker, a second dog will be brought in to confirm the alert. If the dog does alert, the situation is turned over to the school. A search of the locker would then be conducted by school officials, and the student and his or her parents would be contacted by the school.

    Limberg said that whether a student is arrested or not largely depends on the seriousness of the infraction and "what we find and how much we find." But he said the first instinct of school officials will be to get some kind of drug counseling for a student suspected of having a drug problem.
    "At least, this would enable us to start that conversation," Limberg said.

    A drug dog's extraordinary sense of smell also raised questions about the risks students face if they happen to be in the presence of someone who smokes marijuana. Like cigarette smoke, marijuana smoke clings to clothing. A student who rides to school with someone who is smoking marijuana raises the odds that "my dog is going to come by that locker and say, 'yeah, I smell marijuana, folks."

    That possibility is one reason police let the schools take charge of the situation once a dog alerts to the presence of drugs.

    "Just because my dog sits at your locker doesn't mean that there's 5 pounds of marijuana involved," Drees said. "Which is why I don't need to be there to search every locker (and) why we're not lining squad cars up outside and thinking that we're going to haul people away. That's not our intent."

    Share41 Posted: Apr 18, 2012, 8:47 pm
    By Matthew Stolle
    The Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

    http://www.postbulletin.com/news/stories/display.php?id=1493618
  6. usually0
    Yeah, I dont see a problem with this either if happened when i was in highschool. I mean like, no one keeps drugs in their locker, that would be stupid. People keep their drugs on them, and since they're not searching classrooms, I don't see how they would find any narcotics.. unless they find people outside the classrooms
  7. SmokeTwibz
    In my opinion, having drug-sniffing dogs walking around sniffing for drugs is going to end up doing much more harm than good. To me, this is very similar to the anti-tobacco campaign from a few years back, it just guarantees that every single student is introduced to the idea of using these substances, but the drug-sniffing dog approach is much more sinister.

    This is going to normalize a constant police presence in the lives of these kids. Does anyone really think these kids understand that their civil liberties and rights could be getting violated and the effect that could potentially have on society in the coming years? I doubt it. Do the people perpetuating this sort of situation understand this concept? Of course they do! That is why they are doing it. I will leave you with a couple quotes from two of this countries founding fathers.

    "The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first." Thomas Jefferson

    "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Benjamin Franklin
  8. usually0
    Yeah, but until drugs are decriminalized, this is a reality. It's a sad situation, but I don't think there's much you can do, drugs give police so much power.
  9. SmokeTwibz
    There is something we can all do and that is vote Ron Paul for President. If he becomes our President, drug decriminalization may just become a reality, but he gets ignored by mainstream media and/or they make him out to be a lunatic.
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