BY EMMITT MURPHY
One of Interquest’s dogs is in the process of searching a classroom. (Interquest Detection Canines)
Interquest Detection Canines, a nationwide detection canine service, had its first patrol on campus on Jan. 10, 2023. They used canines to search the area for drugs, such as marajuana or cocaine, as well as gunpowder, pyrotechnics, and fireworks. The Redlands Unified School District had originally utilized the Redlands Police department for these services, but due to capacity limits, are no longer able to. This caused RUSD to look into Interquest, which leaves students and staff that knew Interquest was contracted, wondering who they are and what to expect.
Interquest’s main purpose, as stated before, is to find drugs and gunpowder related substances on someone’s person. They operate on school campuses and workplace environments as well as giving services as counseling and comfort dogs. Interquest utilizes non-aggressive, retriever, dog breeds, most notably being the golden and Labrador retrievers which have been extensively trained to detect the listed substances. Interquest has provided successful services for over 1,200 different school districts and private schools as well.
Interquest uses an extensive process in order to locate contraband items and Cameron Nabhan, Vice Principal at Citrus Valley High School, has provided detailed information of that process. According to Nabhan, the entire visit is completely unannounced in order to be “completely random” and avoid “any accusations of unfairness or profiling or anything like that.” The search “started with the E building” with a classroom that is “randomly selected.” From that point, all “the students are asked to wait outside” as the “dog goes in and does multiple sweeps of all the bags and backpacks in the room, and if the dog has a cue to alert the handler if there’s something that they smell and they identify, the handler will instruct the dog to continue searching other things and then reroute them and have them come back to it.” After the bag is checked by the handler to make sure a substance has been found, one of the “campus security officers” present will place the bag “on a table just so, as the dog continues to search, [they] grab the right bag” after the search is completed. Once the search is complete, students are allowed to return to the classroom, and if a student is marked with a substance, they are taken “into a room that is not being used” and are questioned regarding the marked bag, away from other students.
Nabhan has said that “each student was cooperative ” and had no problems answering all questions asked by school security. This is most likely because most students have nothing to hide, as of the “five classrooms” searched, “seven bags were identified by the canine and of those seven bags, only one was found to be in possession of illegal substance.” Most of the bags identified were identified due to residual odor, which is a smell that remains after the source has been removed. This is most likely from an older relative or friend smoking drugs of some sort, around the student, which then gets the scent on their bag.
Nabhan says that this project comes from the goal “to be proactive about campus safety and to promote, as a part of the campus community, that administration and safety will take any preventative measures and proactive measures that we can take to kind of ensure the safety of every student.” The project spawned from observations from campus security, the most prevalent one being the frequent bathroom visits by individual students, who are even skipping class to do so. This has even caused security to close the girls bathroom in the B building during passing periods and lunch.
Students at CV haven’t had the most positive reaction to the canine searches on campus, with sophomore Marcus Perry saying, “It’s a little bit scary having them search us sometimes” and that “it should probably be a little bit more of a last resort kind of thing cause they’re a little spooky.”
CV sophomore, Noah Jaffer, put his thoughts out simply and clearly, saying that he thinks the program is “not gonna stop people from doing drugs.”
Due to their unpredictable nature, it is unknown when Interquest is going to return to Citrus Valley. Nabhan says that “3 [or 4] more visits” are scheduled with Interquest this semester, giving them more time to show the school, and the district as a whole, what value they can bring and how effective they are at keeping schools safe.