Drug dog sniffs way to school

<I>Contributed photo</I><BR>Bennie the drug-detecting dog, sniffs through the halls at Grant Union High School.

JOHN DAY - A narcotics sniffing dog cruised the halls of Grant Union High School last week, alerting on some lockers but resulting in no arrests.

Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer said he brought in the dog at the request of the high school.

The dog, named Bennie, came from the Sherman County Sheriff's Office, accompanied by the officer who is his handler, Brian Hulke.

Palmer said the dog is trained to alert to signs of marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin. He said it may alert to subtle signals, such as a bag that may have contained drugs at one time, or other situations that don't necessarily produce a drug find.

The dog was taken from one end of the school to the other, sniffing past student lockers and in the gym and locker rooms. When it finds a scent, the dog noses the area, then stops and sits down, awaiting a reward for a successful find.

Palmer said the dog stopped a few times. In such cases, however, the Sheriff's deputies do not search any lockers or private possessions. After an alert, deputies turn the situation over to school officials, he said.

School officials have authority to monitor materials brought onto school property and kept in lockers, while police would need a search warrant to go further than the dog patrol.

Palmer said the school would notify authorities if there were any cases that called for police intervention.

Grant Union Principal Mark Witty said there were no findings as a result of the dog's visit last week that resulted in a need for an arrest or citation.

"If we had found drugs, we definitely would refer to prosecution," he said.

Witty said the dog patrol was requested not because of a specific problem, but as more of a routine check.

"It's just one of the tools we can use to make it clear that drugs and alcohol do not belong in the school," he said.

He said the canine searches were done more frequently a few years back, when the local authorities had a drug dog of their own.

"If we had a drug dog here, we would bring it in more often," he said.

He said the response from the community to such patrols tends to be positive.

"Parents want their kids to come to a place that's free of drugs," Witty said.

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