A study done by a team of researchers at UC Davis testing the reliability of drug- and bomb-sniffing dogs found an 85 percent failure rate:
The team assembled 18 police dogs and their handlers and gave them a routine task: go through a room and sniff out the drugs and explosives.
But there was a twist. The room was clean. No drugs, no explosives.
In order to pass the test, the handlers and their dogs had to go through the room and detect nothing.
Out of 144 runs, that happened only 21 times, for a failure rate of 85 percent.
This is a critical finding because of the potential for abuse that is enabled by using dogs that are really trained to respond to handlers' cues instead of drugs or explosives.
In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled (Illinois v Caballes) that police had "probable cause" to search your vehicle if a police dog detects drugs, typically by sitting, digging or barking.
That is an extraordinary power - officers working without dogs need "a reasonable belief that a person has committed a crime" for such searches. Mere suspicion is not enough, and criminal cases resulting from searches that don't meet the "probable cause" standard can be, and are, tossed out in court.
We have seen several examples of this sort of violation on Youtube. Here is just one of many:
This problem is not limited to any particular geographic area. And now the cops have gotten even bolder. No longer do they pretend to have probable cause. They have gone so far that even Justice Scalia (and his ever-faithful lapdog, Thomas) felt compelled to side with the majority and limit the police powers in a recent case out of Florida, (Florida v. Jardines). In that case, the cops had their dogs walk around on people's porches and then used that to justify a warrantless search of the premises.
Here is what happened:
In 2006, Detective William Pedraja of the Miami-DadePolice Department received an unverified tip that marijuana was being grown in the home of respondent Joelis Jardines. One month later, the Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration sent a joint surveillance team to Jardines’ home. Detective Pedraja was part of that team. He watched the home for fifteen minutes and saw no vehicles in the driveway or activity around the home, and could not see inside because the blinds were drawn. Detective Pedraja then approached Jardines’ home accompanied by Detective Douglas Bartelt, a trained canine handler who had just arrived at the scene with hisdrug-sniffing dog. The dog was trained to detect the scentof marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and several other drugs, indicating the presence of any of these substances through particular behavioral changes recognizable by his handler.
So, the cops get a tip. They investigate, find no evidence anyone is home, no evidence anything is going on, and they send a dog in. The dog "alerts" after sniffing on the porch. What was the sign exactly?
After sniffing the base of the front door, the dog sat, which is the trained behavior upon discovering the odor’s strongest point. Detective Bartelt then pulled the dog away from the door and returned to his vehicle. He left the scene after informing Detective Pedraja that there had been a positive alert for narcotics.
On the basis of what he had learned at the home, Detective Pedraja applied for and received a warrant to search the residence.
Really?! The dog sat?! What a miracle. Wasn't it the esteemed Samuel Johnson who once compared a woman's preaching to a dog sitting? No? Oh that's right. He compared it to a dog walking on its hind legs
because there is nothing odd or even difficult about a dog sitting the fuck down! Which is pretty telling since even the cops in the Jardines case testified:
Detective Bartelt gave the dog “the full six feet of the leash plus whatever safe distance [he could] give him” to do this—he testified that he needed to give the dog “as much distance as I can.” And Detective Pedraja stood back while this was occurring, so that he would not “get knocked over” when the dog was “spinning around trying to find” the source.
So, take a dog, put him in a new situation, egg him on so he gets feisty, run him around for a few minutes until he gets bored and ..... wait for it ...... sits
.... and now you have ,literally, created "probable cause" out of thin air.
Never mind the poisoned fruits of these illegal searches. The cops in places like Nevada and Texas and other border states have taken this to a whole new level. Hence, the "racketeering" case in Nevada.
The actions assumed and taken by all named Defendants constitutes a pattern of racketeering as defined under 18 U.S.C.A. § 1961 since all acts were part of the routine and regular way in which K9 training and operation within law enforcement
was conducted. Specifically in that, they conspired and cooperated in sub-standard
training and “cueing” training tactics which knowingly allowed and condoned
officers illegally violating citizens’ constitutional rights and thereby benefitting from the seizure of property and money as well as obtaining federal funds for the
interdiction program. [emphasis added]
Here's why this is a problem. As noted in the Nevada complaint:
The threat of future criminal conduct by all named Defendants is high since they have developed a pattern and practice and K9 training program which trains the dogs to illegally cue falsely, as conditioned by the handlers techniques and thereby
creating a program which is inherently criminal.
This is not a local problem. As Sarah Stillman reported in a recent New Yorker article
Under civil forfeiture, Americans who haven’t been charged with wrongdoing can be stripped of their cash, cars, and even homes.
Her article gives chilling examples of this sort of thing from Texas to North Carolina. I have personally heard people tell me about similar experiences they recently had in southern Virginia. Apparently, there are corridors that are famous for this sort of behavior. I saw similar sort of behavior during Occupy.
The time has come to challenge these tactics more broadly. Since these dogs are often spectacularly wrong, it is reasonable to demand standards of training, certification, re-certification, as well as forcing police to videotape all searches and provide the dogs in court for purposes of validation. Otherwise, we enable the Blue Team to be nothing more than the largest gang threatening our security. Anyone who still believes these dogs are reliable because they can't be "bought" is mything the point.