Police officer's son organizes K-9 demonstration at Pine River Middle School

LEROY  — A Pine River High School student's class assignment led to a special presentation Friday about something close to his heart.

Austin Halladay, a sophomore, wrote a paper about "Blue Lives Matter," a topic focusing on police officers killed in the line of duty and promoting the good deeds police often do in their daily work. The issue is something near and dear to Halladay  — his father is Undersheriff Justin Halladay of the Osceola County Sheriff's Office.

"We had to do a paper for English class about a national conflict and I chose this subject," Austin explained. "The next part of the project was to take it to the streets, either in or out of school, and educate people on the topic. So I asked if I could have some officers come speak to students."

With his idea approved, Austin spoke with his dad and arranged for K-9 officers to come into the school, speak about their jobs and demonstrate drills with their dogs. On Friday, the officers spoke to sixth- and seventh-graders at Pine River Middle School.

Sgt. Mark Moore and Deputy Jed Avery brought in their K-9 dogs, Chase and Ryker, showing off some of their skills and tricks.

Dogs have been working with police in the United States for more than 100 years, Avery said. While technology has evolved throughout that time period, nothing has been able to replace the role of a K-9.

"These dogs are amazing," Avery said. "There is so much they do to assist us."

Demonstrating the power of a K-9's nose and ability to find something, Chase was presented with four bins. He quickly hit on one particular bin, sitting quietly in front of it until he was rewarded with a ball which popped out of the top of the bin.

Chase was drawn to the bin because of narcotics hidden within it, Avery explained.

Next up it was Ryker's turn to impress students with the help of a Aaron Schab, the school's athletic director. Schab volunteered to wear the protective sleeve, allowing Ryker to show off his bite work.

"Building searches, suspect apprehension and narcotics searches are just a few of the things our K-9s do," Avery said. "When they do their job it makes it safer for us to go to work."

Once the demonstrations were complete, officers answered questions from the students and gave them the opportunity to pet a K-9. Austin also announced he we will be selling wristbands at the school for $1, with proceeds benefiting the Osceola County Sheriff's Office K-9 program.

"I'm really thankful I'm part of a community and school district which allowed me to help organize an assembly on this," Austin said.