The whole point of free speech is not to make ideas exempt from criticism but to expose them to it.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Try questioning a dog in court...

Because of a column I wrote regarding the use of drug-sniffing dogs, some have suggested I support drug dealers. I do not. I support the rights enumerated in our constitution. I support law enforcement, when they follow the rules.

In last week’s column, I questioned how many drug-sniffing dog searches resulted in a dog that alerted and nothing illegal was discovered. Those statistics are not made available to us. I said it is possible to teach a dog to alert on cue.

In Nevada, three police officers who were participants in that state’s K-9 drug detection program sued the state, the city of Las Vegas and numerous other defendants, when they were relieved of their duties for refusing to participate in a “trick pony” program that encouraged handlers to train their dogs to alert from handler cues rather than from drugs.

A study by the University of California, Davis tested the reliability of drug- and bomb-sniffing dogs. Eighteen police dogs and their handlers participated. The test was to go through a room and sniff out all the drugs and explosives.

But there were no drugs or explosives. In order to pass the test, the handlers and their dogs had to go through the room and find nothing. In 144 runs, the dogs found nothing 21 times. That is a failure rate of 85 percent. That should be reason enough for judges and juries to be skeptical of drug-sniffing dogs.

What does it matter as long as they get the drug dealers? Ask the 4,932 people who were issued “Courtesy Warnings” during the Rally – more than twice the number of arrests and citations (2071). Nearly 5,000 people were detained and were issued a “Courtesy Warning.” How many were subjected to searches?

I’m no stranger to being stopped during the rally, because for 20 years, I was seen leaving the Buffalo Chip (where I worked) after a concert. Prior to that, I covered music at the Rally for a publication.

One year, I was stopped three times in as many days. The reason given for all three stops was I was driving a car matching the description of one law enforcement was looking for. Three officers. Two vehicles. What do you suppose the odds were police were looking for both a 1995 Taurus and a 1988 Chevy truck at the same time?

My first “Courtesy Warning” came in 2003 for “lane driving” meaning I was driving in my lane. According to South Dakota Codified Law, 32-26-6, a driver is required to drive in his lane. After determining I wasn’t breaking any law, I was issued a “Courtesy Warning” for obeying the law. As a local, I was disgusted. Imagine what those 4,932 people will tell people back home about their South Dakota vacation.

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