Sniffer dogs in schools catch pupils using drugs

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Sniffer dogs are being used by the police in schools to detect pupils taking drugs.

Sniffer dogs are being used by the police in schools to detect pupils taking drugs.

So far 11 teenagers have been caught with cannabis by the canine drug detectors in a police schools programme in Kent that combines education with law enforcement.

More than 3,000 pupils, aged from 14 to 16, at 10 schools have been asked to file past the dogs and their police handlers in the past few months. Sniffer dogs are also been used to search for hidden stashes in pupils' bags, lockers and desks.

Pupils who are caught red-handed with the class-B drug have all been referred to a treatment programme to address their illegal habits. The area covered by the exercise includes Tonbridge Wells, Sevenoaks and Tunbridge.

The unique scheme, which the Metropolitan Police and Hertfordshire force are studying, begins with a talk by members of the Kent police's drugs liaison unit. They demonstrate the skills of their sniffer dogs, usually a Labrador and a springer spaniel, on five teachers. One of the teachers agrees beforehand to have cannabis and heroin planted on him by a drugs officer.

Once the dog has found the one carrying drugs the police whip on handcuffs and read the teacher his rights. "This usually provokes much hilarity from the pupils," said Sergeant Howard Chandler, head of West Kent drugs liaison unit. "But the atmosphere changes when we switch from the educational side to enforcement," he said.

To the shock of some pupils, they are then asked to leave the hall by walking past a sniffer dog, which sits in front of the suspect if it can smell drugs. If teenagers are identified as a possible drug-user they are taken to a room and searched by a police officer while a teacher is present.