Drug interdiction programs using dogs can be successful

Mar 1, 1997 12:00 PM, By Dr. STEPHENIE SLAHOR

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The value of dogs to law enforcement and security has been acknowledged for years, but a new role for them is taking shape - helping workplaces stay drug-free. That's the word from Richard W. Ritz, director of industrial security for General Dynamics Electronics Division in San Diego. He says a drug detection program using dogs can be a success, but management should educate employees about the dogs and the process to ease qualms and fears.

Ritz points out that most employees realize everyone at a workplace is dependent on everyone else for physical and psychological health and safety. Good working conditions help keep a work site safe and productive. A part of good working conditions is a written policy about the unacceptability of the possession, use or sale of alcohol or illegal drugs.

When a company decides to use dogs in its interdiction program, Ritz says employees need to know that the purpose of the dogs is not to catch anyone, but to keep drugs out of the workplace. Employees must know that drug-detecting dogs are not the mean-as-a-junk-yard-dog type, nor are they addicted to drugs, nor do they invade a worker's personal space. Ritz says an easy way to get past such misconceptions is to introduce all employees - including managers - to the dogs. If applicable, union leadership should be included as well.

First, a memo should be sent to all employees about the program and its goals. Then there should be a demonstration of the dogs in action. The employees will see that the dogs are not intimidating; rather, they are chosen for their good nature, trained to stay friendly, and a handler is always with them. A letter should be sent to vendors and suppliers, advising them of the new program and its purpose.

Next, says Ritz, post signs about the program at the gates and building entrances. Such signs can be worded in a variety of ways, depending on legal advice and workplace policies. Here are two examples:

* The company reserves the right to inspect the property and person of all individuals on company property. This right includes, but is not limited to, the inspection of vehicles, parcels, packages, purses, lunch boxes, briefcases, lockers, work stations and desks. Security regulations prohibit cameras, firearms, intoxicants, illegal drugs and explosives on these premises. * For the safety of our employees and in support of our goal of a drug-free workplace, drug-detection dogs may be used on these premises.

Much of the program's value will come from unannounced inspections, says Ritz, but the first inspection should be announced. At all inspections, the handler of the dog should wear a distinctive uniform or other identification. During an inspection (especially the first one or two), employees should hear an announcement of the presence of the dogs and the start of the inspection, and someone should accompany the handler (such as a safety/security officer) to watch for signs of fear of dogs among the employees. Ritz concludes that a drug detection program using dogs can be successfully implemented if managers establish clear policies and procedures and work to gain employee acceptance of the program as a way to keep everyone safe and secure at the job site.

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© 2015 Penton Media Inc.

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