Life as a law dog isn't too ruff.
Just ask Midnight, the eighth School Resource Officer (SRO) in Pulaski County Schools -- and first K9. The nearly two-year-old black Labrador is the new partner of Deputy Tyler Brummett, Southern Middle School's SRO for the last three years.
It's a dream come true for Brummett. When he first joined the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office as a patrol deputy, Brummett's goal was either to be an SRO or K9 handler. It was the SRO position came open first, and at which he has excelled -- earning a Rookie of the Year award from the Kentucky Association of School Resource Officers (KYASRO) after his first year.
"I never really considered the possibility of doing both," Brummett said.
But in the wake of mass shootings and bomb threats at schools across the country, the school system has beefed up security measures by implementing the Raptor system which manages visitors, volunteers, drills, and lockdown protocols. It was Southern Middle's media specialist/librarian, Shannon Ford, who first approached the SRO about getting a dog for the school.
Brummett, who personally knows a fellow SRO with a K9 in Boyle County, loved the idea -- so long as SMS Principal Brett McQueary, Pulaski County Sheriff Greg Speck and Pulaski County Schools Superintendent Patrick Richardson all approved. Once the administrators were on board, Ford went to work raising money to make it happen -- organizing a dance as well as T-shirt and "Slushie" sales.
"Once everybody found out what we were doing, they were very giving," Ford said of faculty and students.
The money was then donated to PCSO, with the agency then enlisting Martin Wesley of ALPHA Canine Kennels in Russell Springs to find the right K9 for Brummett. The renowned trainer suggested a black Lab that would be good with kids but also have a high search drive. Brummett and his wife drove over the very next weekend to meet Midnight. Brummett said they were a team "right off the bat."
The Brummetts brought Midnight home over the summer to bond and train. When school started back in August, Midnight came to work with the SRO despite the fact he hadn't yet been certified. The goal then was to acclimate him to the school environment -- and the students to him.
The plan has worked better than expected, with Midnight not only adding security but helping bridge the gap between law enforcement and students.
"He's a great drug deterrent, obviously," Dep. Brummett said, "… but an unintended side effect of having him in the school is that kids, who normally wouldn't come up and talk to the SRO, want to come see him.…That's been really cool [for] them to realize we're not the police that get vilified on TV; we're the ones here to protect them and keep them safe."
"One of the primary roles, other than safety, for SROs in the school district is to build relationships with our students," Pulaski County Safe Schools Coordinator Wanda Absher added, "because of lot of them maybe have had negative experiences, so this is just an added bonus to help create that bond and connection with kids."
But's it's not all ear scratches and face licking for lovable Lab; the students know he's at school for a purpose. With his certification coming through on September 5, Midnight's duties have expanded to searches for marijuana, methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and ecstasy.
"We don't expect to find all those in a school," Dep. Brummett said. "That's just what they get trained on."
Brummett is quick to dispel any notion that Southern Middle got a drug dog because the school has a drug problem.
"We don't and we want it to stay that way," the deputy said. "I think he'll be a good deterrent to anybody thinking about bringing that stuff into our schools but at the same time, if they decide they're going to, he's going to find it. That's his job."
Though stationed at Southern Middle, Midnight and Brummett can assist other local schools as needed. Plus Absher said school officials are working to develop a cartoon campaign around Midnight to help kindergartners and first-graders become accustomed to school safety protocols like lockdown drills.
Midnight has his own Instagram account as well.
"Our goal with that was for the kids to follow him and get a little bit of extra Midnight when they're not here but also use it to promote school safety," the deputy said. "We've actually had a couple of kids use it as a reporting tool…Already we've seen big positives out of that and we've only had the account going for a week."
Though at least three other school districts in Kentucky have K9 SROs, Absher noted that Midnight is the first official K9 member of KYASRO. And the job perks keep coming. In addition to a party celebrating Midnight's birthday (actually October 12) complete with doggie cupcakes, Southern Middle plans to include him in the staff section of the yearbook. He's claimed his own corner of Brummett's office, which is now outfitted with a kennel for when the deputy has to attend to something without Midnight.
But for the most part, they're walking the halls together.
"Everybody always wants to see him," Dep. Brummett said. "He's always excited to go to work."