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Why the War on Drugs (and police) are Stupid

YYW
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12/29/2015 5:39:59 AM
Posted: 11 months ago
https://www.washingtonpost.com...

Highlights:

In April 2012, a Kansas SWAT team raided the home of Robert and Addie Harte, their 7-year-old daughter and their 13-year-old son. The couple, both former CIA analysts, awoke to pounding at the door. When Robert Harte answered, SWAT agents flooded the home.

They found no evidence of any criminal activity.

The investigation leading to the raid began at least seven months earlier, when Robert Harte and his son went to a gardening store to purchase supplies to grow hydroponic tomatoes for a school project . . . merely shopping at a gardening store could make you the target of a criminal drug investigation.

On several occasions, the Sheriff"s Department sent deputies out to sort through the family"s garbage . . . The deputies repeatedly found "saturated plant material" that they thought could possibly be marijuana.

On two occasions, a drug testing field kit inexplicably indicated the presence of THC, the active drug in marijuana. It was on the basis of those tests and Harte"s patronage of a gardening store that the police obtained the warrant for the SWAT raid.

Lab tests would later reveal that the "saturated plant material" was actually loose-leaf tea, which Addie Harte drinks on a regular basis. Why did the field tests come up positive for pot? As I wrote back in February, it"s almost as if these tests come up positive whenever the police need them to. A partial list of substances that the tests have mistaken for illegal drugs would include sage, chocolate chip cookies, motor oil, spearmint, soap, tortilla dough, deodorant, billiard"s chalk, patchouli, flour, eucalyptus, breath mints, Jolly Ranchers and vitamins.

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge John W. Lungstrum [in ruling on the police's motion for summary judgment] dismissed every one of the Hartes"s claims. Harte found that sending a SWAT team into a home first thing in the morning based on no more than a positive field test and spotting a suspect at a gardening store was not a violation of the Fourth Amendment. He found that the police had probable cause for the search, and that the way the search was conducted did not constitute excessive force. He found that the Hartes had not been defamed by the raid or by the publicity surrounding it. He also ruled that the police were under no obligation to know that drug testing field kits are inaccurate, nor were they obligated to wait for the more accurate lab tests before conducting the SWAT raid. The only way they"d have a claim would be if they could show that the police lied about the results, deliberately manipulated the tests or showed a reckless disregard for the truth " and he ruled that the Hartes had failed to do so.

If such scrutiny revealed that cops consider merely shopping at a garden supply store to be suspicious behavior, that drug testing field kits are more about circumventing the Fourth Amendment than accurate results or that a sheriff"s boast of having shut down a drug operation run by an "average family" in a "good neighborhood" was actually a terrifying raid in which SWAT cops held two kids at gunpoint because their mother enjoyed drinking tea " well, some people might begin to question the wisdom of the drug war.

The Hartes are also a white, financially sound couple who both happened to have worked for the CIA.
Tsar of DDO
YYW
Posts: 36,289
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12/29/2015 5:46:25 AM
Posted: 11 months ago
The issue of whether a dog sniff is a fourth amendment search, for example, remains an unanswered question. Given that dogs only get right about 40% of the time, the idea that a dog could be used for probable cause is absolutely perverse. The fact that these tests the police use turn up false positives as readily as they do is as disturbing.

The fact is that local police (not big city police; New York, Philly, and Chicago cops are really fine people) are incredibly stupid, incompetent, misguided and usually malicious unless they personally know you and like you. They are like sharks, who go out of their way to make people's lives miserable. (There are exceptions, of course, to broad-based rules like this, but the exceptions are, by definition, not the rule.)

The mechanics of this operation just make me want to vomit, and this judge's reasoning makes me even more nauseous.
Tsar of DDO