by Loren Silverman
This month, we’re recognizing the incredible accomplishments of one of our own Miami-Dade Schools Police officers! Officer Sam Leidel is a fixture at Palmetto Elementary School — adored by students, staff and parents alike — and never without her trusted companion, emotional support dog Amber.
Officer Sam has been with the Miami-Dade Schools Police Department (MDSPD) for more than half a decade. A Miami native, and lifelong martial arts student beginning in the third grade, she has a black belt in kung fu and Tae Kwon Do. She has been on the Miami Tae Kwon Do team, Amateur Athletic Union Tae Kwon Do team and U.S. Tae Kwon Do team competing in Africa, England, Mexico and Canada, among many others! Once ranked at #12 in the world and #1 in the United States in her weight class for Tae Kwon Do, she serves as an inspiration to young girls everywhere in this heavily male-dominated sport.
Officer Sam continues to inspire young girls and children through her professional work in the police force. This year, she applied for, and was granted, one of only six dogs to serve in the Miami-Dade School Police K-9 Unit. Through her incredible dedication and commitment, Amber an eight-month-old Standard Poodle, now joins Officer Sam both at school and home. Together, they work on commands (in French!) and special weekly trainings to advance Amber’s certifications.
Thanks to Officer Sam’s hard work, Palmetto Elementary School is the only school in the area to benefit from an emotional support dog. Amber accompanies Officer Sam on rounds throughout the school, keeps children company in the clinic, makes classroom visits and even stops by a physical education class now and then — especially if they’re playing soccer! Officer Sam has seen firsthand how children benefit from their interactions with Amber. Evoking smiles from everyone she greets, Amber helps ease feelings of stress or anxiety that children may be experiencing at any given time.
Officer Sam is an invaluable asset to our community, inspiring our children, keeping them safe and putting a smile on their faces along the way. Thank you for your service, Officer Sam!