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Irma's nose turns to sniffing out drugs, and she's darn good at it

by: BARBARA SHERMAN - Sherwood police Officer Corey Jentzsch praises Irma and lets her play with her favorite toy as a reward for finding marijuana planted in a cupboard at Middleton Elementary.On Sept. 11, a “police officer” found a bag of marijuana in a cupboard in a Middleton Elementary classroom, and rather than being alarmed, the action brought smiles to the faces of the gathered Sherwood School District administrators.

The “officer” was Irma, a 3-year-old Belgian Malinois, who responded to a command by her handler, Officer Corey Jentzsch, and the quick detection of the previously planted drug was a demonstration of her abilities.

“I have trained at least 25 dogs and certified dogs all over the state, and she is one of the best I’ve ever seen,” said Sherwood Police Dept. Capt. Mark Daniel of the police dog who has now been certified for both narcotics detection and patrol work.

“It is remarkable for one dog to do both… She’s here to deter crime in our community and in our schools.”

Daniel, Jentzsch and Chief Jeff Groth met with Superintendent Heather Cordie and the School Board for a special work session before the regular board meeting for the purpose of acquainting the board and district administrators with Irma’s capabilities and also to have a discussion about what the police department can and can’t do regarding student drug use.by: RAY PITZ -  Irma, a 3-year-old Belgian Malinois, shown here with her handler, Officer Corey Jentzsch, is now certified as a narcotics dog, adding to her clout in helping Sherwood police.

“Crooks are afraid of dogs, and a large percentage of the American population is afraid of dogs, and we use that to our advantage,” Daniel said. “They are a tremendous deterrent.”

Groth clarified the limits of police intervention: “Irma never searches people, only objects,” he said. “The only time there is contact is when we are tracking a bad guy.”

As far as utilizing Irma in the school district, Groth said, “What I care about is that we stop students from making bad choices. I want everybody in this town to know we have a drug-detection dog, and 80 to 90 percent of the demonstrations we do in schools will show her drug-detection abilities.”

Furthermore, Groth clarified that “as police, we don’t conduct searches on school property. We need probable cause or a search warrant, but it is different for educators, who can conduct searches.”

The police personnel responded to a variety of questions from board members and principals attending the meeting, including explaining that they want to work with administrators and use Irma as a deterrent rather than finding drugs on a specific student or in a specific locker.

Groth gave the example that if Jentzsch and Irma were walking along a school hallway, and the dog alerted on a locker, instead of searching the locker, Jentzsch would suggest that school officials check that bank of lockers in the hallway.

Or if students are suspected of smoking marijuana, Irma might be taken to the site to check for residual evidence.

The administrators agreed that it would be appropriate to have Jentzsch and Irma give a demonstration of her narcotics-detection abilities at a high school assembly and possibly at the two middle schools but not the elementary schools.

As part of her certification in drug detection and patrol work, Irma is used to track suspects, search open areas and articles, protect officers and apprehend fleeing suspects.



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