Cooper ISD's New Tool in the Fight Against Drugs - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

8/14/08

Cooper ISD's New Tool in the Fight Against Drugs

When school starts in less than two weeks, Lubbock Cooper Independent School District will have a new tool to fight drugs in their schools. His name is Rikki and he has extensive training in exactly what drugs kids might have. NewsChannel 11's Justin Michaels introduces us to this new addition to the Cooper ISD police force.

He wears all black and can sniff out even the smallest, seemingly insignificant amount of drugs. "No he's not a mascot. His name is Rikki and he is a drug sniffing dog," Pat Henderson, Lubbock-Cooper Superintendent said.

Rikki is the newest drug fighting tool in the Lubbock-Cooper Independent School District. He's a Black Lab with a nose like a Bloodhound and his full time job is to find the stuff students might pay big bucks to keep secret - maybe even as much as the drugs they're trying to hide are worth.

"For years we were contracted with a private firm for the services of a drug sniffing dog, most school districts do that, and our particular contract the price got up into the $10,000 range," Henderson said.

According to Henderson, the $70,000 they spent on Rikki and everything that goes along with a full time drug sniffer is actually a savings to the district. "We'll recoup our cost in about two years and have savings, but it wasn't a cost saving measure as much as it was a measure to do everything we can do to keep drugs out of school," Henderson said.

They even bought a new K-9 mobile for Rikki. "He's on the job every day. He's with me everywhere I go," Leo Sandoval, Rikki's trainer and partner, said.

"The thing about the dogs is, you know, he's a dog, they're going to detect on little things that they find interest in. He's not going to alert to it, but it's like any other dog, they see something that smells neat, meat or something like that, they're going to show interest in it, and I have to tell him to differentiate between what's not a narcotic and what is," Sandoval said.

Rikki is a true professional - he had about six weeks of training. He's been at Cooper ISD for about a month and in that month he's found 100 percent of his targets. And to keep that number true, Rikki and Leo train every day for two hours a day so that when duty calls both partners are at the top of their game. "On the narcotics itself, it's just something that he continuously learns. I train with him all the time with every single odor," Sandoval said.

Rikki has two very specific commands to let him know he's either on the right track or if what he found is, well, fooey.  "Find dope is what it is and he continues his search. As you said, the word fooey, it means fooey bad - it's not anything," Sandoval said.

If you're concerned about your child being around Rikki, don't worry. When Rikki goes to work he'll never be searching a person because state law prohibits it. But if you bring something on school property it's fair game for Rikki and Leo - cars, backpacks, anything. "Anything and anywhere that someone might try to enter some sort of narcotic into our school, we want to make sure we intercept it before our kids get hurt." Sandoval

So there you have it, the latest and greatest team in drug enforcement in Lubbock Cooper schools just happens to include a quadruped that wears a black fur coat year round.  "He's going to do a very good job this next year, in being a tool that way," Sandoval said.

Sandoval says Rikki can not only sniff out drugs but weapons as well. Though he'll be used primarily at Cooper middle and high schools, Rikki will also visit the elementary schools, sending a message to the youngest "Pirates" to just say no to drugs.

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