Clanton police working to keep drugs out of schools

Published 6:14 pm Friday, August 17, 2018

By J.R. Tidwell / Editor

Capt. David Clackley with the Clanton Police Department and his K9 partner Max have become fairly well-known to residents in the city of Clanton for the work they have done both finding illegal drugs and helping apprehend criminals.

Now, students at Chilton County High School and Clanton Middle School are becoming even more familiar with Clackley and Max as the duo make frequent, sometimes daily walks in and around the campuses in the hunt for drugs.

“We spoke with the board of education and the superintendent before school started,” Clackley said. “It was one of those things we wanted to do — do a better job trying to keep drugs out of schools.”

Clackley said dogs meant to find narcotics like Max have to receive training every day. As such, he decided to take the exercises he was already required to do and turn that time into something with more purpose.

“I don’t do the same routine everyday,” he said. “We may go in and hit a few lockers and walk around for a little while students are walking the halls. Then I’ll hit a few more lockers.

“It serves two purposes. We put out hides for the dog to go find every day. By doing it this way, I have the opportunity to put hides out that I know of in the school. Then I can search the school. We are using our training time at the school to serve a dual purpose. While I am there I am using the opportunity to check lockers and vehicles.”

Clackley hopes this increased presence in the school by authorities will also help deter violent behavior or criminal activity.

“It’s all around a win-win for us,” he said. “We get to interact with a lot of the students. I have several who want to come up and pet him every morning. The teachers seem to be enjoying it. A lot of people are bringing him treats or keeping them for him in their office. It helps us to form a good relationship with the kids and let them be familiar with us.”

While Clackley and Max have not found any drugs in the schools so far this year, there have been instances in the past where illegal substances were found in the possession of students.

“Over the years there has been drugs found in some of the schools,” he said. “That’s what we try to avoid, with everything going around right now and the overdoses caused by fentanyl (a powerful opioid) and other narcotics. With the fentanyl and (synthetic marijuana) going around, we don’t want that to happen here. It may deter some of the kids from doing it. That’s what we hope for, anyway.”

While Clackley and Max focus mainly on the schools in Clanton, they have helped out with searches at other schools in the county.

“We have always done K9 searches in the schools,” he said. “Usually, what we would do is coordinate with the school and bring in eight to 10 dogs and search the entire school building. In order to do that, you have to shut down the entire school building. It is an interruption to class, so you kind of lose a school day to do that.

“The way we are doing it this year, we are doing smaller searches often rather than doing a large search once or twice a year. We hope that will act as a deterrent, and maybe we can find some stuff.”

Officer Erick Smitherman and K9 partner Esby also help patrol schools in Clanton.