Police dog makes surprise visit

Published 11:05 am Friday, May 12, 2006

By By ANDY HAMILTON / Niles Daily Star
NILES - The hallways of Ring Lardner Middle School are silent.
Walking past the dark classrooms, one would assume it is a weekend and not a Thursday morning with less than 20 days of school left.
The building is on a simulated lock down. Just minutes before, Langmeyer had addressed the entire school over the PA system.
Standing alongside Langmeyer are assistant principal Wayne Borr and Niles Police officers Kevin Kosten and Chad Mitchell. Attached to Mitchell's side and eagerly awaiting some kind of action - a search or a game of fetch - is Rex, a seven-year-old German Shepherd.
Borr makes clear the lock down drill is not in response to any recent problems within the school.
Students and teachers have already been instructed on the proper steps of a Ring Lardner intruder drill.
Turn the classroom lights off, close and lock the door and quietly move everyone to an area of the classroom that is out of view of any unwanted individual possibly scavenging the hallways.
An intruder drill also proves to be the best situation to perform a K-9 drug search in the building, Kosten said. An empty school means Mitchell and Rex can briskly march up and down the hallways past rows of student lockers without interruption.
Mitchell holds the leash in one hand and leads Rex with the other. At the end of one row, Mitchell circles Rex around his legs and moves to another set of lockers. The dog's nose hovers just above the floor, directly in front of the small slits in the bottom of the lockers that provide air flow. Through the vents, Rex can pick up the slightest scent of drugs.
Rex notifies his partner of any sign of a positive hit by stopping in his tracks and scratching at the locker door with his right paw as if the slim metal compartment is overflowing with dog bones.
Before Kosten places a bright yellow piece of note paper on the locker to signal a hit, the space is re-checked. Mitchell pulls Rex a few feet away from the area and distracts him with a quick drop of a tennis ball.
Returning to the suspected area, Mitchell and Rex make a second and third trip past the locker, solidifying Rex's initial hit. The process is tiring on the dog. The intensity with which Rex handles the search does not permit him to complete a pass of every locker.
To end the drill, Mitchell bounces a bright yellow tennis ball off the shiny floor and watches as Rex comes barreling toward it, sliding to a halt while grasping the ball firmly in his jaws.
The same drill was performed last year by Mitchell, Rex and Kosten.
Just like the lock down drill, the school staff and students have also been prepped for a lock out situation. Kosten said the lock out would be used in a case where a potentially dangerous individual was on the streets and heading toward the area of the school. In that case, Kosten said the police would inform the school of the situation and instruct them to lock all the doors and keep everyone out of the building.
And, the added benefit of keeping old lunch food out of the lockers.