Coconut Creek, Fl. – The Coconut Creek Police Department would like to welcome its new School Safety Dog®, “Taylor,” to the team! Taylor’s addition to our School Resource Officer (SRO) team makes her handler, SRO Michael Leonard, the first SRO in the nation to be trained and actively deploying a Vapor Detection® School Safety Dog®. Taylor is a 17-month-old female black Labrador retriever. She has been trained since birth to detect scents related to firearms.
Auburn University`s Canine Performance Science Program is the innovator behind the Vapor Detection® K9 technology which holds a U.S. Patent for non-obtrusive body-worn explosive detection. Auburn`s exclusive commercial partner Vapor Detection (VWK9) is the only provider in the industry that has actively deployed Vapor Detection® canines for mass pedestrian screening over the last decade. VWK9`s School Safety Dogs® are specifically trained to provide unobtrusive, efficient, and effective firearms screening of crowds in schools and other types of environments. Taylor is trained to sample the air around people and follow specific odors to their source.
“After the horrible events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February of 2018, I, like many others in law enforcement, started asking myself ‘What can I do to make a difference in our schools and try and prevent the next school shooting from happening,” explained Officer Leonard. “Thanks to our police department, our City leaders, and our City Commission, the opportunity came open to bring a School Safety Dog to Coconut Creek and I knew I had to go for it.”
Taylor completed a nearly 18-month training program, finishing in the top ten percent of her class on all evaluations. Officer Leonard spent seven weeks at the VWK9 training facility in Anniston, Alabama, getting to know Taylor and accumulating the nearly 300 hours of training required to become fully certified. Both Officer Leonard and Taylor attained certification on November 7th. They have spent the past couple of weeks training here in Coconut Creek and getting acclimated to the Coconut Creek schools.
Taylor is trained to find weapons, weapon parts, ammunition, carbon, gun oils, cleaning solvents, fireworks, black powder, double based smokeless powder, and several other components related to firearms.
SRO Leonard and K9 Taylor will work with all of Coconut Creek’s schools on detection efforts. As part of a pilot program partnering with VWK9, there will also be a multi-faceted educational component to their work, particularly at Coconut Creek’s elementary schools and at North Broward Prep. “Interaction with dogs has been shown to have significant physical benefits that include a decrease in stress levels. A visiting or permanent canine promotes greater self-esteem, focused interaction with students and faculty, opens lines of communication amongst faculty and peers, and provokes an overall feeling of safety and wellness,” explained Kristie Dober, the Executive Director of Business Development at VWK9.
The pair will also assist with security at events at Broward College’s North Campus here in Coconut Creek.
Officer Leonard and Taylor will spend the rest of the week meeting principals, teachers, and staff at all of the Coconut Creek schools. Taylor’s friendly demeanor and warm personality are certain to endear her to all of the Coconut Creek community. You can meet her and Officer Leonard by visiting our next Do The Right Thing of Coconut Creek awards ceremony on Thursday, December 12th, at 5:30 p.m., inside City Commission Chambers.