Police won't get involved in school drug searches unless it's from the outset.
By TIM YOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
HUBBARD -- The head of the city's safety forces says police should be involved before drug searches are conducted in the schools.
Safety director Robert Paterniti said it came as a shock to him to learn that police were not involved in an April search for drugs at Hubbard High School.
"It's a change in school policy. We knew nothing about it," Paterniti said, noting city police have always been a part of the searches.
"You have to have the police involved from the beginning," he said.
Schools Superintendent James Herrholtz said that although the school district contracted with a private K-9 unit, police were on the scene when the April 26 search was conducted.
Acting Police Chief Kenneth Oyler said officers were not involved until a school official notified the police department that possible evidence was collected.
One officer confirmed that police weren't contacted until after the school building was searched and it was continuing in the parking lot.
Paterniti said he believes his officers were left out because someone in the large number of people involved could tip off students beforehand.
Herrholtz said secrecy is a factor because word of a pending search gets out when drug-sniffing dogs from other police jurisdictions are used. Hubbard police don't have a K-9 unit.
"You have to have the police involved from the beginning," the safety director said, adding he will discuss the situation with Herrholtz.
"I'm not opposed to lockdowns and checking lockers," Paterniti stressed. "You certainly can't be Gestapo-like, but use professionalism."
Herrholtz said that there are fewer police K-9 units because of the cost of maintaining them and that school systems are increasingly using private firms.
Private service used
Tri-State Canine Services of Warren was used in the April 26 search. Herrholtz said Tri-State didn't charge the district because it was its first search at Hubbard.
Herrholtz said he'll meet with Tri-State owner David Booser to iron out a contract.
Neither Tri-State nor Booser is listed in the Warren/Trumbull County phone directory.
Paterniti said he will not permit city police to be involved in school searches unless the dog and its handler are law-enforcement trained.
He pointed out that if police are not involved from the beginning of the search, there may be a legal issue with the chain of any evidence collected.
Oyler said if the school uncovers contraband the district will have to file charges if police aren't involved.
Ted Terlesky, chief of security at Youngstown public schools, said Youngstown police are always involved in searches there.
A team consists of a school administrator, dog and its handler from the city police department, police officer, a custodian to cut open a lock and sometimes a photographer.