Two related stories of law enforcement jackholery today, both involving the same theme: some cops think that science and facts and evidence and all are acceptable in their place, but what really matters is their gut. In both cases, cops knew in their heart that they were interdicting drugs, and in both cases they were wrong.
First case, via Simple Justice, involves cops interdicting with extreme prejudice a crop which they believed in their hearts to be marijuana, but which was not.
The crop was kenaf planted as deer food on land leased by the Boarhog Hunting Club. Waltman planted the crop based on research at Mississippi State University. The research concluded that kenaf, used to make paper, could also attract deer and provide larger hunting trophies.
See, it's not only not dope, it's a plant calculated to encourage better hunting. What could be more all-American than that? But Sheriff George H. Payne Jr. is a man of action, not a man of science:
Area narcotics officials later said it was the first time they had heard of kenaf.
. . .
Sheriff's officials circled the area by helicopter and a sample from one plant was tested. It tested negative for THC, the illegal compound in marijuana. Agents said a sample from a fresh-cut plant could show a false result, so Payne decided to seize the plants and allow samples to dry for more reliable tests.
Because who are you going to believe, your lying tests or your gut?
The result: the Fifth Circuit affirms the lower court tossing the case out on the grounds that Payne had limited immunity. The rationale seems to be that (1) Payne's behavior was not unreasonable because ignorance regarding the plant was widespread, not just limited to him, and (2) everyone knows that the field test can be unreliable, so it wasn't unreasonable to think it had returned a false negative (which, I guarantee you, will not be the song they sing next time someone wants to use the field test as a justification for a search or arrest). Waltman probably gets no compensation for the destruction of approximately 500 plants. Opinion here.
Second case, a rush to judgment based on such a field test. 18-year-old Christian Phillips was delivering cookies to police stations as part of a community service obligation. For some reason someone field tested the cookies, the allegedly field tested positive for marijuana and LSD. Phillips was arrested and widely demonized.
Except actual lab tests by actual competent scientists showed that the field test was bogus.
But lab tests performed by the Tarrant County medical examiner's office were negative for drugs, and Mr. Phillips – who had been charged with tampering with a consumer product – was released from jail shortly after 5 p.m. Thursday. The felony charge was dropped.
But some police aren't satisfied with science. Cop nose is more reliable, you see.
Blue Mound police also sent cookie samples to the ME's office and those, too, came back negative for drugs.
But Blue Mound police Lt. Thomas Cain said Thursday that while he respects and accepts the medical examiner's report, he is sure he smelled dope on the home-baked Toll House treats.
"They did have a pungent, rancid odor," Lt. Cain said. "They did have the odor of marijuana. I got within two feet of it; I could smell it."
Blue Mound officers also conducted their own field test that came back positive for marijuana.
"How do you explain it? I don't know," Lt. Cain said.
Well, Lt. Cain, it seems to me that the most probable explanation was that (1) one of your cops fabricated the field test, (2) at least one of your cops is not competent to use the field test, or (3) the field test is not reliable. Possibly more than one of those. Similarly, the most probable explanation for the discrepancy between your nose and science is that your nose is full of shit. In a manner of speaking.
But remember: cops are your friends.
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