School teams with KPD to staff campuses with canine officers

KPD Officer Clint Johnson tells KISD board members about a joint effort between the department and school district to find and train a dog to help with the district with drug detection, deterrence and education at an April 29 board meeting.

Kilgore ISD board members pledged their support for keeping students drug-free by approving a plan to bring a new police presence onto district campuses – a furry, four-legged presence.

At an April 29 board meeting, trustees voted in support of a plan to bolster the district’s Drug Detection & Deterrence Program by bringing a Kilgore Police Department K-9 officer and specially-trained dog onto district campuses in the near future.

“One of our goals that we are looking at is finding an effective canine school detection and deterrence program that will show KISD our proactive efforts to help provide a safe and secure environment for all of our students and staff,” said Assistant Superintendent Richard Nash.

“Some of our goals, we wanted to find a way to reduce the presence of drugs, alcohol and weapons, be consistent with our students and also provide some education for our elementary students where we can get officers and everybody involved in their education about things like stranger danger and drug awareness.”

Nash told trustees KPD currently provides K-9 officers to the district but cannot always do so at scheduled times because, as working law enforcement officers, they sometimes have priorities outside the district.

KISD and KPD worked out a solution to keep a K-9 School Resource Officer in the district to provide drug detection and deterrence efforts whenever needed.

“In conversation with Chief Hunter and KPD, we’ve come up with an option where they have volunteered to partner with us to have our own K-9 SRO, have our own unit, which KPD has agreed to pay for the dog, the training and everything. What we’d have is one of our SROs, they would be in charge of this dog,” Nash said.

The assistant superintendent said there would be a few advantages for the district having its own K-9 unit. The dog would not be a typical police dog, Nash said, jokingly referring to the animal as a “Stress Relief Officer.” The dog would be a friendly presence on campus, trained to get along with students and faculty while also detecting prohibited substances.

Another advantage would be the dog’s abilities – it could be trained to detect specific substances that present a particular problem on school campuses, such as prescription medication pilfered from medicine cabinets or gunpowder.

Also, the dog would not have to be a German Shepherd, like most police canines. Instead, the dog could be a different breed, one seen as more friendly and approachable to young students.

“This would help hit our goals,” Nash said. “It would be a consistent presence, it would provide that education and we could have that canine unit for whatever it is that we need.”

Trustees voiced their support.

“It’s a great idea to have a dog that is available to us at all times and that can be on the campus at a moment’s notice, to be there today and tomorrow and next week. To me, this is a no-brainer,” said trustee Dereck Borders.

“Same here,” agreed trustee Trey Hattaway. “You’re doing preventive maintenance at the lower levels and actual maintenance at the higher levels. If we have the ability to use that as a teaching mechanism as well as a deterrent, then I think it serves our district immensely.”

Nash said, upon approval of the project, KISD would partner with a Longview animal shelter to choose a dog, which would take about four weeks to train initially.

Board President Reggie Henson asked if any particular breed of dog would be sought.

“The initial thing is we really want to make it a friendly dog that’s a mid-sized dog,” said KPD Officer Clint Johnson. “There are other states that have done this program. Most of the time, it is a labrador that they get. It’ll be a lab, maybe a pointer-type hunting dog, something along those lines. We don’t want any breed that would be intimidating to the younger students, any breed that would not be approachable.”

Johnson added the KPD K-9 team would visit the shelter to look for a dog with certain desirable traits, such as the ability to follow commands and perform certain physical activities, like fetching objects.

Superintendent Dr. Andy Baker made a recommendation to move forward with the project and Borders motioned for the item to be approved. The board gave the measure a unanimous “yes” vote.

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