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Virt. Vineyard

St. James detective trains dogs to bomb-sniff and be social

L’Observateur / June 24, 1998

LUTCHER – The boundless love was shining in Kilo’s eyes as his master, St. James Parish detective Billy Jordan, put him through his paces.

Kilo, 5 1/2-year-old, 90-pound Labrador retriever, happily bounded over an 8-foot-high obstacle course wall in Jordan’s back yard, tongue lolling.

It was easy. This was fun.Kilo shows his love in other ways, as well. Three years ago, when Jordanwas unconscious following a traffic accident on Interstate 10, Kilo, bruised and bleeding, stood guard over him and refused to let anyone near.

It was only when a fellow St. James sheriff’s deputy who knew Kilo calledhim by name and placed him in a patrol car that an ambulance crew was permitted to treat Jordan.

It’s one example of the love Jordan inspires in the dogs he trains, not only for the St. James Sheriff’s Office but for other law enforcement agencies,as well. He trains dogs in narcotics search, criminal apprehension, cadaversearch, and, for private owners, obedience training and home protection.

Jordan, 35, has been with the St. James Sheriff’s Office for five years,when Sheriff Willy Martin Jr. began a K-9 officer program. Prior to that heworked 11 years with the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office, departing tolaunch an unsuccessful recall effort against then-Sheriff Johnny Marino.

Jordan says he’s much happier now.

“Ever since I can remember, I’ve always been involved with training retrievers and beagles,” he said.

Professionally, it was Eddie Rodrigue of the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office who taught him the trade of law enforcement dog handling, starting with his first drug-detection dog, Black Jack.

Nowadays, Jordan is best known as the handler for the only bomb- detection dogs in the River Parishes.

“At first, I used Boomer. Now, I use Boomer’s mother, Tessa.” Tessa is an 8-year-old Belgian Malinois, also trained in criminal apprehension. Boomer, he explained, is now employed by an out-of-statelaw enforcement agency.

The training isn’t that hard to understand.

“Basically, I train them to find their toy,” Jordan explained. “It’s a game.They’re trying to get your acceptance.”The work does have its hazards, though. “I have more than 400 puncturewounds, the last bite causing 19 stitches. Until you get a good, strongrapport going, the chances of getting bitten are quite high.”He spends eight to 10 hours per week on explosive practice drill, taking a minimum of 400 hours of training before deciding “if they’ll cut the mustard.”Jordan also demonstrated the power of the Belgian Malinois in criminal apprehension, with the cooperation of St. John K-9 officer Chuck Bazile.Bazile donned protective gear and stood at the ready when Jordan unsnapped the leash and snapped his command.

The 40-pound dog powerfully launched himself at Bazile, seized hold of his protected arm, and corkscrewed his body to try and unbalance the man and bring him down.

It was with a bit of difficulty that Tessa was persuaded to release him.

Law enforcement agencies are getting away from German Shepherds, Jordan said, to go with the lighter, but more durable, Dutch Shepherds and the Malinios. “They bite harder, they’re quicker and they’re really intensewhen they’re working.”All this work has paid off for the St. James Sheriff’s Office, as more than$18 million in narcotics have been recovered, thanks largely to Jordan- trained dogs.

On a weekly basis, K-9 officers from St. James, St. John the Baptist andSt. Charles parishes, including Bazile and Ricky Oubre from St. Charles,get together for mutual training, setting up scenarios which can last as long as six hours.

The three departments work closely together, providing backup for one another as needed.

Kilo, however, is the current star of Jordan’s show. Immensely popularwith school children, Kilo is being developed as the star of his own “Captain Kilo” coloring book, once Jordan can find financial backers.

Kilo has even been trained to pull a small dog-cart with children on board, all a part of the sheriff’s efforts to have police officers seen as “the good guys” to children.

“It’s very important to me that the dogs are social,” Jordan said. “If a dogis child-aggressive, I definitely wash him out of the program.”Jordan said he probably has one of the best-protected homes in St. JamesParish. Recently, as Jordan was sick in bed, a deputy who dropped by topick up some police equipment was not allowed into the house, as Kilo stood guard for his master.

“Each dog has something he does best,” Jordan said. “They have a lot ofcompetitiveness, a lot of pride.”They also have a lot of love.

Photo: The ferocity of attack demonstrated by the Belgium Malonois is shown here, as Tessa launches herself at St. John Parish K-9 officer ChuckBazile. Tessa is trained by St. James Sheriff’s detective Billy Jordan.

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