Posted 5/02/12 (Wed)
By Neal A. Shipman
The Watford City High School went into “lock-down” for minutes last Wednesday afternoon as the Watford City Police Dept., along with members of the Northwest Area Task Force and canine units from the North Dakota Highway Patrol and the Williston Police Dept., conducted a drug search of the school.
The drug search, according to Steve Holen, McKenzie County Public School District No. 1, is part of a cooperating effort between the school district and the Watford City Police Dept. to keep drugs out of the school.
“We only had the drug dogs alert once during our search of the school,” stated Slade Herfindahl, Watford City police chief. “And upon inspection of that locker, there was no contraband found.”
And only having one alert was a very promising sign that the school’s efforts to keep illegal drugs off the school property has been working.
“This is the lowest number of alerts that we have had at the high school in the history that we have been conducting the searches,” stated Herfindahl. “Two years, which was the last time that a drug search was conducted, the drug dogs had 11 alerts. And at that time, no illegal drugs were found.”
According to Herfindahl, the school administrators placed the school into a “lock-down” at 1:57 p.m., at which time law enforcement personnel and the canine units began their search of the school and motor vehicles parked in the school’s parking lot and on adjacent side streets.
While the drug dogs only had one alert during their sweep of the school’s premises, Holen says that last Wednesday’s “lock-down” was also a good way for the school district to check its procedures.
“In light of the number of schools across the country that have gone into “lock-downs” because of violence or other threats, this was a good way for us to see how our students and teachers would react,” stated Holen.
And for Herfindahl, the “lock down” was also a good opportunity for new employees of the police department to become familiar with the school’s layout.
“Being able to do a complete sweep of the school in 40 minutes is really fast considering we only had two dogs,” stated Herfindahl. “We want to be able to be in and out within one class period so there is minimal impact on the students and the school.”
While both Holen and Herfindahl believe in the value of having drug searches in the school, last week’s search came about as a result of a recent Community Coalition meeting addressing underage drinking and drug use in Watford City.
“It was the feeling of the public at that meeting that they would like to see another drug search conducted at the school,” states Herfindahl. “Following that meeting, Supt. Holen and I began planning this search.”
While both Holen and Herfindahl would like to see more searches, Herfindahl notes that the availability of drug dogs is the main limiting factor.
“Even though we wanted to do a search last year, it didn’t happen because no dogs were available,” states Herfindahl.
But even with drug dogs in scarce supply in western North Dakota, both Holen and Herfindahl say that the search will continue in the future.
“The more the students see the dogs in the school, the better,” says Holen. “The students know that we are serious about keeping drugs out of our school.”