Study Reveals Drug Dogs Are Unreliable for “Probable Cause”

A lawsuit filed against the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department claims that drug dogs are little more than “trick ponies” used to legitimize the seizure of property from innocent victims. A 2010 study conducted by UC Davis is central to the lawsuit, as it indicated that drug dogs failed 85% percent of the time. In the study, 18 drug dogs and their handlers were asked to sniff out the drugs and bombs in a particular room. One hundred and twenty-three times out of 144, the drug dogs indicated that there were drugs or bombs. There weren’t any. Researchers concluded that the unreliability of the drug dogs was not the fault of the dogs, but of their handlers. Handlers gave the dogs cues that swayed their objectivity and resulted in “false positives.”

This is very troubling indeed considering that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that an indication of “detection” by drug dogs is sufficient probable cause for a search or seizure. But if the dogs are responding more to their handlers’ cues rather than the presence of drugs or bombs, this means they become powerful tools for local law enforcement to use to regularly violate your Fourth Amendment rights. That is the gist of the lawsuit (filed by two Nevada Highway Patrol K-9 troopers) against the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

The claimants say they were subjected to harassment and intimidation because they refused to use their dogs to seize money from Nevada motorists. The lawsuit claims that Nevada drug dogs are not much more than legal covers for what amounts to racketeering: motorists are pulled over, drug dogs are cued to give false positives for drugs, troopers then seize money or property “related to criminal activity.” This seizure is protected under most state and federal forfeiture laws.

I hope this lawsuit draws attention to an increasing problem in the United States. We already have the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world. And every day, more and more stories are surfacing about police corruption and abuses of power. With the Department of Homeland Security buying up ammo and armored vehicles, it seems that our civil authorities are becoming more and more antagonistic toward you and your constitutionally-protected rights. I am thankful for the police out there who still believe it’s their job to protect and serve. But I fear their numbers may be too small to make a difference at this point.

5 responses

  1. Dogs were bread to want to please their handlers. If a handler wants his dog to give a certain signal, he’s going to give that signal.

  2. Before condemning all police, remember, the lawsuit was filed by 2 CONSCIENTIOUS State Troopers…police officers. Granted I hope I am stopped by one of them on my way through Nevada even though I have never used, transported or otherwise been involved in illegal drugs (except when I was a police officer myself) and not one of those playing “fast and loose” with the law and ethics.

  3. It is a shame, but the day of good law enforcement is long past, in many locales. As an officer, I had to put another in prison, for “planting” narcotic evidence to make his stats look good. I have observed the K-9 handler using signals with his dog to get the results he wanted and a search that had no basis was then conducted….Glad I am NO longer associated with the law enforcement community, as the brass are as, or more corrupt, than the street cop.

  4. I am sorry to report that the news seems littered with stories, often supported by videos, of police acting in at the very least, very questionable ways. In the past few months, I have seen a police officer shoot and kill a person who ran at him and the police officer was protecting himself because a person approaching a policeman is considered to be threatening the policeman. Later was a story of a police officer who shot and killed a person fleeing that police officer — because fleeing a police officer is a threat to the police officer, so he was justified in killing the person who was threatening him by fleeing. Yet later, a police officer shot and killed a person for standing completely still, because — wait for it — standing still is a threat to a police officer who must protect himself. Oh, and as I remember, none of these individuals was allegedly found to be armed with a weapon.

    So: approaching a police officer constitutes a threat to that officer, justifying his shooting and killing you.
    fleeing a police officer constitutes a threat to that officer, justifying his shooting and killing you.
    standing completely still near a police officer constitutes a threat to that officer, justifying his shooting and killing you.

    Tell me, then, what am I to do if I find myself in the presence of a police officer so that I am not shot and murdered, errrrrr killed by the police officer for threatening him or her?

    This is only one type of incident.
    Add to this the breaking in on people in their own homes and killing some of them (including sleeping 8 year old girls) while doing so, only to find out later that it was the wrong address, etc. and one really becomes questioning of the police and fearful of them. It gives the impression that “To protect and serve” has been replaced by “To terrorize and kill”.
    I wish that this were not so, but these instances seem to be increasing, not decreasing.

  5. Want to get a false positive? Have a live hamster or other animal hidden in your possession. The dog will alert nearly every time.

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