Jordan, Lee Posted: 5/14/2007 7:54:49 AM
Class of 1989
May 13, 2007
Drug-sniffing dog company serves seven school systems
By Robert DeWitt
DEMOPOLIS | Lee Jordan’s business has gone to the dogs. And he likes it that way.
“I’ve always had dogs and always enjoyed working with dogs,” Jordan said. “This gives me the opportunity to do that in my business.”
Jordan owns the Alabama franchise for Interquest Detection Canines. The company serves as a private contractor to school systems using trained dogs to sniff out illegal, over-the-counter and prescription drugs, alcohol, guns and explosives.
A Demopolis native, Jordan was working for Coca-Cola in Atlanta when he read about a woman who owned an Interquest franchise there. After finding out that the Alabama franchise was available, he realized that it gave him an opportunity to do something he liked and return home to Alabama.
A year after buying the franchise, Jordan has seven school systems under contract. He has two dogs and one handler and plans to add one to two more employees during the summer.
“With today’s society, we’re just taking precautions,” said Marengo County Superintendent of Schools Luke Hallmark, whose system is one of Jordan’s clients. “We know something could happen.”
Interquest visits schools twice a month on varying schedules. While the dogs haven’t uncovered anything yet, Hallmark thinks the service is still worth it.
“Our principals have been real receptive,” Hallmark said. “The parents and our community are supportive of it. They would want to know it if their child was involved in something like that.”
He also believes it’s effective.
“The kids are aware that at any time the canine may come into the school,” Hallmark said. “I think it’s a good preventive dose of medicine.”
Dogs that sniff out drugs and explosives have long been associated with law enforcement. Interquest isn’t trying to take the place of law enforcement canines, Jordan said, because it has a different mission.
Law enforcement dogs are frequently taught to sniff out large amounts of illegal drugs and lethal amounts of explosives. Interquest’s dogs can pick up trace amounts of drugs and gunpowder.
Because guns, alcohol and prescription and over-the-counter drugs are not illegal, law enforcement dogs are often taught to ignore them. But all of those substances are classified as contraband in schools.
The amounts don’t have to be big. Jordan remembers one occasion when one of the company’s Labradors signaled an alert on what school officials believed to be an empty locker. In the back, they found a single Benadryl tablet.
While law enforcement officials typically use aggressive dogs like German shepherds or Belgian Malinois, Interquest uses hunting breeds like golden retrievers and Labradors, breeds most people consider friendly. They work at a steadier pace and instead of scratching and whining when they find contraband, they merely stop and sit down.
Jordan uses Red, his golden retriever, who calmly approaches when he’s called and wags his tail.
“Kids are just drawn to him,” Jordan said. “We’ve got some of the best trainers in the world. They’re even trained to go to the bathroom on command. We don’t want them having accidents in schools.”
Jordan tells Red to “break” and the dog tends to his business on a nearby crepe myrtle.
Dogs and handlers are trained at the company’s training center in Houston.
“The main reason [schools] choose us is that we’ve been working in schools so long,” Jordan said. “Our dogs are all trained to find the same scents.”
On the days dogs aren’t working, they usually receive training. Handlers plant contraband in training areas to make sure dogs are alerting properly.
Legal standards required to conduct a search are different for Interquest and law enforcement, Jordan said. Because Interquest works for a school system, school officials need only reasonable suspicion to conduct a search. Law enforcement needs probable cause.
Interquest carries its own liability insurance and documents what it finds, turning it over to school officials to decide if police intervention is needed.
Law enforcement often wants schools locked down while they conduct a search, while Interquest encourages schools to continue routine operations.
“School administrators want their school safe and we are a tool to do that,” Jordan said. “On the other hand, there’s minimal disruption. It’s not a police state while we’re there.”
Availability is also an advantage. Police canines are called on for a variety of circumstances. Interquest focuses on schools.
Interquest officials say they aren’t trying to replace law enforcement canines. In fact Jordan said, the company’s dogs wouldn’t make good law enforcement animals. Stopping to alert their handlers of guns, bullets, and prescription and over-the-counter drugs would waste police time.
Most law enforcement officials welcome the company, he said.
“I think they like having us around,” Jordan said. “It gives them another tool to keep these things off campus. Some people say we’re a private company doing law enforcement’s job. But that’s not the case.”
Jordan said the knowledge that the dogs could come to a school at any given moment serves as a deterrent preventing students bringing contraband on campus.
“They get tired of flushing it down the toilet,” Jordan said. “When you’re there, you see kids heading for the bathroom kind of quick.”
It really doesn’t matter if the schools don’t catch students in possession, Jordan said.
“If they go to the bathroom and flush it, it’s off campus,” Jordan said. “That’s our goal. It becomes a deterrent once you go through and clean up the problem you’ve got.”
Law enforcement agencies often offer the service free to schools. But Interquest is also a Title IV-approved vendor, so schools can apply for federal grants targeted at eliminating drugs from schools.
When Interquest was founded in 1988, the focus was on finding fireworks in school.
“You see how far we’ve come from that,” Jordan said. “We’ve found everything under the sun, illegal drugs, prescription drugs, guns, and alcohol.”
He hopes the company gives school officials peace of mind.
“The biggest benefit is that the school administrators know if we have been through their school, they know their school is clean,” Jordan said.
Reach Robert DeWitt at email@example.com or at 205-722-0203 or 866-400-8477, ext. 203.
Russell (robby russell), Robby Posted: 10/31/2006 9:10:10 AM
Class of 1985
We rented this Winnebago for the AU-UGA game in Athens. Christened it the MPU (Mobile Party Unit), did a little decorating to show our school spirit, loaded up, and headed out on Friday afternoon.
Somewhere outside of Atlanta, we got pulled over by a GA State Trooper who took exception to some of our mobile artwork ( “Herchel Walker is Illegitimate” in giant blue letters on the side of the Winnie). He let us go after we promised to wash it off immediately.
We parked and “slept” at the UGA coliseum Friday night, and by Saturday morning, we were all in dire need of a good long pregame shower. We headed over to Athens Sigma Nu House around 7:00 AM, set a pair of Subaru-sized Peavey loudspeakers outside, turned the volume up to 11 and put on a recording of Auburn football highlights and fight songs while we invited ourselves into the house,comandeered their showers, and used up all of their hot water.
Oddly, our Athens brothers never invited us back.
I’ve no idea who won that game.