Granite School District police debut first gun-sniffing K-9 team
SOUTH SALT LAKE, Utah — A young German Shorthair Pointer excitedly trotted into a classroom Thursday afternoon, immediately on the hunt.
He sniffed around the room while his handler followed, holding the end of the leash.
“He’s trying to figure out, ‘OK, where is the odor coming from? I’m going to follow the trail, and then I’m going to pinpoint where it is,'” Officer Garrett Penrose explained, of his four-legged police partner’s process.
K-9 Bolt was searching for the scent of gunpowder. Bolt can detect trace amounts usually found in guns. His nose quickly led him to the back of the classroom, near where a gun was hidden as part of a training scenario.
He’s the Granite School District Police Department’s newest tool to increase safety and security.
“He can go anywhere,” Penrose said. “He can go into parking lots, he can go around vehicles, he can go through lockers, any common areas, outside.”
This POST-certified team started working in December, after Penrose began training with Bolt in October, teaching him how to sniff out firearms.
Matt Sampson, Granite School District spokesperson, said Penrose and Bolt are currently the only POST-certified gun detection team in the State of Utah.
The district looked into a gun detection K-9 unit, Sampson explained, because they’re always looking for an opportunity to introduce a new tool or resource in their multi-layered approach to school safety.
In the first couple of months, the team has been able to help out in different ways.
“We have used them for various investigations, and to help secure our schools and our campuses,” Sampson said. “We have used them in investigations where there might have been an anonymous tip or the threat of gun violence that was maybe reported with the SafeUT app.”
Sampson talked about how the team joined the search for a gun after shots were fired in the Taylorsville High parking lot in January.
But the district and police department are hoping the K-9 team will also act as a preventative measure.
“It’s a deterrent,” Sampson said. “So our hope is that as the public and as students see that Officer Penrose and Bolt are out at our campuses and searching our parking lots, that they will think twice about being foolish enough to bring a weapon on campus.”
Outside of detecting guns, Penrose said Bolt has helped calm down students in crisis. They’ve spent time visiting the different schools, so Bolt can get acclimated and so students can meet the K-9 team and understand they’re nothing to be afraid of.
Bolt’s puppyish demeanor and derpy style have made him a favorite on campus.
Sampson and Penrose said the team plans to get a POST certification for tracking, so that Bolt can potentially help find suspects, or lost elderly people or children.
During the scenario Thursday, Bolt stood still at the back of the classroom and indicated the gun was inside a drawer. Penrose gave a verbal signal that Bolt was correct, followed by, “Good boy!” Bolt ran to his handler, snatching up his big reward — a toy ball.
“We have one goal in mind,” Penrose said. “Keeping everyone safe, and especially the students.”
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