K9 Ava a welcome addition to Spain Park SRO staff

HOOVER – School Resource Officers have long been a welcome part of the Spain Park High School community, but these days they are more popular than ever because of a recent addition: 9-year-old K-9 officer Ava.

Ava and her handler, SRO Kevin Hollis, started at the school in January, joining SRO Christopher Cochran as representatives of Hoover Police Department.

“Ava never meets a stranger, and every student is important to her,” Hollis said. “She has developed a very strong bond with our special needs students, who enjoy time with her daily.

Spain Park High School’s School Resource Officers are Kevin Hollis, Ava and Chris Cochran. (REPORTER PHOTO/STEPHEN DAWKINS)

“Most people are open and warm to a dog, especially a dog like Ava. Her friendly personality coincides with the environment we promote here at Spain Park, and she also provides a level of safety for our students, teachers and administrators.”

Hollis, a Vincent native, has been part of the Hoover Police Department for about five years and was with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office previously.

Hollis acquired Ava, then a young puppy, from Central Alabama Police K9 Training Center in Jemison during his time with SCSO. She is a Labrador retriever mix breed “runt of the litter” trained in narcotics detection.

Ava’s training is reward-based. To her, detecting narcotics results in a treat or toy.

Ava’s day starts off by greeting students in the hallways before class followed by “extreme spoiling” by the faculty and staff, Hollis said.

Ava occasionally visits other schools and programs including career days, Hoover Day, dogs in the park events and Boy Scouts events, among others.

She has also assisted in various drug searches throughout Shelby and Jefferson counties.

“Dogs can be helpful in so many areas, from therapy and companionship to eliminating drugs and providing a safe environment,” Hollis said.

Officer Cochran has been an SRO at Spain Park for about six years, and other schools before then, and has seen the importance of such officers.

Every high school and middle school in the Hoover City Schools system is staffed with at least one SRO, and some of the elementary schools have full-time SROs while the other elementary schools rely on rotating reserve officers.

SROs provide overall security at the school, including ensuring doors are locked at the end of the day, safeguarding points of entry during the school day, monitoring halls, controlling crowds at lunch and other busy times, and helping resolves crimes committed at the schools, such as thefts.

The officers are also often asked to speak to students in law classes or other related topics.

Cochran (who has four of his own) said he always wanted to work with children.

“It feels good to come to school every day to know you help provide a safe learning environment,” Cochran said.