K9 teams can sweep schools

The City of Newport and the Lincoln County School District have formalized an agreement for the police department’s K9 teams to conduct drug searches in local schools. Pictured above are Officer Hayden Randall and K9 Nero. Below are Officer Aaron Bales and K9 Zoe. (Photos courtesy of Newport Police Department)

NEWPORT — The Newport City Council on Monday, Jan. 6, approved an agreement with the Lincoln County School District for the Newport Police Department to conduct K9 drug detection sweeps at local schools.

City Manager Spencer Nebel said, “The city police department and the Lincoln County School District have had discussions about augmenting police services to the district through the use of the law enforcement K9 program.”

Nebel said the agreement outlines the police department’s ability to use K9 teams, in a manner consistent with law, at the district’s secondary schools, when authorized by the school superintendent.

“K9 searches will be used for lockers, common areas, classrooms, school grounds, parking lots and vehicles, but will not be used to search a person, nor sweep the personal property of school staff,” said Nebel, adding that the primary use of the dogs will be to assist in the search for controlled substances, to obtain search warrants and to search vehicles, buildings, grounds and other areas deemed necessary.

The Lincoln County School District Board of Education approved the agreement in December.

City Councilor CM Hall asked for clarification that student lockers can be searched and whether the students have relinquished their rights, thereby allowing their property at school to be searched.

Newport Police Chief Jason Malloy said the agreement applies to all property within the school district, and “this includes vehicles that are within the school district parking lot, anything that the district owns that the kids use.”

Malloy noted this agreement with the school district is a revamp of an agreement that has been in place since around 2008. Regarding students’ rights, Malloy said the searches are authorized.

“Yes, it’s an agreement that they actually sign on the first day of school when they get their locker,” the police chief said.

Malloy confirmed the police dogs search for narcotics — heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine — though NPD has access to dogs that detect tobacco, marijuana, lithium batteries and explosive devices. “We would get the resources needed,” said Malloy.

A dog isn’t allowed to search anyone’s person, Malloy clarified. Generally, he said, there will be a school administrator, the NPD K9 officer and sometimes the school resource officer present during a detection sweep. 

“It’s a really well-coordinated event,” said Malloy. “The kids are not present when a search takes place.”

Malloy noted that as an NPD officer, he doesn’t have the right to search the school, rather the LCSD administration initiates the search and any subsequent investigation.

City Councilor Dietmar Goebel asked Malloy if drugs are a big problem in the schools.

“I’d be very hesitant to say that it’s a problem,” said Malloy, “but we do know that it’s present. [The K9 team] is a tool that we need, and the district needs, to get a handle on it.”

Hall, addressing Malloy, indicated she’d like to see divisive hate, harassing and bullying enforced as vigorously. Bullying, Hall said, seems to her more prevalent than drugs.

In response, Malloy said School Resource Officer Tom Lekas “has made incredible leaps and bounds, and the school district, in addressing harassment and bullying.”

Malloy continued, “I know that it’s not swept under the carpet, and they actually do have a pretty good, proactive approach.”

Newport City Council meeting agendas and video recordings of meetings are available online at newportoregon.gov.

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