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September 20, 2013

Law enforcement takes many forms

The Daily Star

---- — When we think of the police, the image that comes to mind is probably of an officer in a patrol car, parked alongside a busy road or driving through town. 

But two recent stories have highlighted other ways that law enforcement interacts with our local communities. 

Unadilla Valley Central School students were greeted this fall by Michael Hilla of the New Berlin Police force, who is serving as a resource officer at the school. 

While some assume that the presence of a school resource officer means that there must be problems within the school, Unadilla Valley Superintendent Robert Mackey said that’s not necessarily the case, pointing out that Hilla will be there mostly to do outreach and education. 

Hilla said that the kids will “keep me on my toes and keep me grounded,” adding that the role gives him the chance to be a positive influence and to see the fruits of his labors as he gains the trust of the students. 

Hilla is one of several such school resource officers in our area, and we’re pleased to see the program returning to Unadilla Valley. The more tools a school has to combat at-risk behavior, the better. And in an era when school shootings feel like a very real threat, having someone on campus with a law enforcement background is certainly reassuring. 

The newest member of the Delaware County Sheriff’s Department is a lot shorter than Hilla — and a lot hairier. 

Ozzie the German shepherd is the charter member of the department’s first K-9 unit. Trained as a drug-sniffing dog, Ozzie was among the top finishers in his class at a K-9 police school run by the Syracuse Police Department. 

Ozzie has already proven his worth, sniffing out two packets of heroin on his first day on the job that could otherwise have gone undetected. 

It’s a sad commentary on the state of our communities that Ozzie has become a necessary member of the sheriff department’s staff. But we’re glad he’s there. While it wasn’t cheap for the department to set up its K-9 unit, we have no doubt it will have been money well spent. 

“The (drug) problem is definitely here, and it’s expanding and getting worse,” DuMond said. “This dog is going to be an important tool in helping us to address the problem.”

Of course, Ozzie can’t be everywhere at once. Neither can Officer Hilla. But both of them are examples of the variety of tools that modern law enforcement agencies can use to serve the public good.