At some point, in full view of a room full of educators, parents and students, Connecticut State Trooper First Class Christopher Toney stashed a baggie of drugs inside an AV stand – and no one noticed. But Olga would sniff it out quickly, once she was asked to do so by Toney, her handler.
Toney is a CSP K-9 officer and he and Olga have been a team for years.
Toney takes her by her leash and walks her aournd the room directing her from area to area and within seconds, Olga alerts on the stand with audio-visual equipment atop it.
She’s found the stash. (Video of the demo and search was not permitted; still photos only were allowed.)
The demonstration was at once impressive and convincing; especially given Olga is a completely non-threatening and sweet-looking golden Labrador Retriever. The Labrador is often used as a drug-sniffing dog because of its intelligence and keen sense of smell and, as evidenced by its name, its skill at retrieving.
The demonstration came as the Board policy committee wraps up work on a policy that would permit drug-sniffing dogs to perform school searches.
Toney explained how a school drug sweep works.
Olga is a ‘passive alert dog,’ he explained, meaning she doesn’t bark ,or bite or scratch. She just lets him know by going to the scent. When a school requests a drug sweep, the school is put in a lock-down drill with kids in classrooms. He said usually, the kids don’t even see what’s going on in the hallways – 12 or so dogs with their officer handling and other officers quickly moving through hallways as dogs ‘alert’ on lickers where they smell drugs – or not.
“The kids don’t know, unless they look at the window and see 12 police cruisers,” Toney said.
Students are not searched.
“Our purpose is to try and keep this as safe a school as possible,” he said.
The dogs also search school parking lots and if they pick up a scent, the car is searched and it doesn’t matter if it’s registered to a parent or another person; if it’s on school property, it can be searched.
Schools Superintendent Pamela Aubin said the committee has been looking at the proposed policy “very diligently.” She asked if the dog could locate weapons and Toney said the dogs are exclusively drug canines: “The dogs that come to your school will only sniff for narcotics.”
“They will take all this information back” and tweak the policy if need be.
The searches would be conducted with no warning.
“They would be unannounced,” she said. That’s the point. “This program is (designed) to be more of a deterrent.”
Montville schools already have a search and seizure policy but it does not make reference to the use of police K-9 units or drug detection dogs.
This is the state law that allows for these types of searches.
Sec. 54-33n. Search of school lockers and property. All local and regional boards of education and all private elementary and secondary schools may authorize the search by school or law enforcement officials of lockers and other school property available for use by students for the presence of weapons, contraband or the fruits of a crime if (1) the search is justified at its inception and (2) the search as actually conducted is reasonably related in scope to the circumstances which justified the interference in the first place. A search is justified at its inception when there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that the search will turn up evidence that the student has violated or is violating either the law or the rules of the school. A search is reasonably related in scope when the measures adopted are reasonably related to the objectives of the search and not excessively intrusive in light of the age and sex of the student and the nature of the infraction.