PBC school police trot out drug- and gun-sniffing dogs

A Palm Beach County school police officer wiped his sweat on a T-shirt Friday and placed the shirt on the pavement at Palm Beach Central High School.

Then he hid.

School police officer Curtis Riddick led his floppy-eared partner, Kash, from his squad car as the hushed media looked on. Kash, a bloodhound, sniffed the T-shirt and within seconds tracked down the hidden officer.

“He caught the odor in the wind,” Riddick said. “Their noses are so much stronger than ours.”

School police held the demonstration to introduce three new dogs — one gun-sniffing and two to sniff out drugs — to the community.

The drug-sniffers are Jake and Kobe, both Belgian Malinois. Maggie, a Dutch shepherd, is the only female among the district’s five dogs and she’s the only gun-sniffing dog, as well.

The K-9s are assigned geographically. Kash, the department’s longest-serving dog, is the main sniffer in the south. He detects drugs and finds missing children. Kash came through a donation from the Jimmy Ryce Foundation.

“When he gets his harness, he knows it’s time to work,” Riddick said.

But the dogs aren’t all about law enforcement.

When officers enter schools, students don’t ask them about their jobs, they want to know all about the dogs, Riddick said. “We want to break that tension,” Riddick said, that comes from their law enforcement role.

And the dogs make great partners who show unconditional love, Riddick said. “If it was up to me, every officer would have a dog.”

The department also announced this week that it accepted two used Harley-Davidson motorcycles, valued at $2,000 to $3,000 each, from the Jupiter Police Department.

That means parents speeding in school zones might get schooled more often and, for the first time, by officers on motorcycles when school opens Monday.

The motorcycles will be assigned to north county schools. One of the Harleys has 17,000 miles, the other has 26,000 miles.

The motorcycle officers will focus on enforcing traffic laws and educating parents on safe driving, Schools Police Chief Lawrence Leon said. They will teach parents about seat belts, the dangers of texting while driving and driving with other distractions, and booster seat safety.

Getting drivers to slow down in school zones is vital for the safety of students, Leon said.

“Our goal is to keep everyone safe,” Leon said.

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