‘Bull’ the drug dog set to guard Coal Ridge High School | PostIndependent.com

‘Bull’ the drug dog set to guard Coal Ridge High School

Garfield County Sheriff Officer Trisha Worley and her working K9 Bull walk the halls at Coal Ridge High School on Wednesday morning. Bull is trained in Narcotics and will be full time at the school.

The Garfield Re-2 School Board moved forward with plans to bring a drug-sniffing dog to Coal Ridge High School last month, an idea that was initially brought to the board by the Garfield County Sheriff's Office and Coal Ridge School Resource Officer Trisha Worley in August.

The proposal required changes to the school's policy regarding student interrogations, searches and arrests, as attorneys and board members gave it careful consideration before moving to final reading.

Worley, who will also serve as the handler for the dog, explained the scope of what Bull, the dog's name, will be doing at the high school before the policy change to allow the police dog was approved by council.

As Re-2 Superintendent Brent Curtice explained, he's a highly-sensitive animal and will not be a dog that just wanders around the school.

"There are times it will just be in the police car and times it will just be under a blanket," he explained. "This dog is highly protected from a lot of sensory information.

"It's such a great idea," said school board member Brock Hedberg. "Drugs are such a problem. They are a problem in schools. It just makes people think and makes them make smarter decisions."

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At the Aug. 28 board meeting when the idea was initially proposed, Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario discussed how having a dog that would be trained for marijuana specifically for the schools would benefit the students, teachers and administrators in today's climate.

"[Students are] more likely to bring marijuana into schools without the dog, and that's a school issue, it's a health issue and it's a social justice issue," he explained to the board. "We want to be able to combat that."

He said the dog would be trained for marijuana, apart from the training of other law enforcement dogs, and will be welcomed at any of the schools in any of the districts.

At the August meeting, board member Jacquelyn Johnson walked through a potential scenario where a student smelled like marijuana but perhaps did not have any on his or her person. Worley said those scenarios would be treated on a case-by-case basis.

"They are under the age, so they shouldn't be smelling like it at all and if they are under the influence then we'd be running through the MIP (minor in possession)," she explained.

"The hope is the kids will know the dog is there, and that will serve as a deterrent," Vallario added.

When asked later in that meeting if this was something she would support, CRHS Principal Jackie Davis said it was.

She explained that in the past when they would bring a dog in, they would get several hits per room. But last spring when they did the same exercise she said they didn't get a hit.

Bull is still going through training, according to Worley, but has already been getting acclimated to the school and her office. She expects him to be certified by the end of January.

Worley said the only other school she's heard that's doing this is in Colorado Springs, as it remains a unique proposal for the local high school.

New York Times Article

Rifle Police Department's own drug sniffing dog, Officer Tulo, a Yellow Labrador Retriever, was recognized by the New York Times last month in an article detailing how the legalization of marijuana has effected the training of drug dogs. The focus of the article dealt with police dogs being forced into retirement due to the fact that its impossible to tell whether the dog is hitting on marijuana or an illicit substance.

Tulo is set to retire in Jan. due to his age and skillset in recognizing marijuana after eight years, according to Rifle PIO Kathy Pototsky, with the department as a front page photo served as the perfect send off for the officer.

To see the full New York Times article visit: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/24/business/marijuana-legalization-police-dogs.html.

azorn@citizentelegram.com