The Mind of a Drug Cop


The Smoking Gun has just posted a search warrant request from a Carlsbad, California cop. In an age when search warrants are easier to come by than ever, the document is instructive in all sorts of ways, not least because it gives insight into how cops think and talk with false certainty.

The target in this case was a family of five who drew suspicion due to abnormally high electricity usage. No drugs were found, despite a drug-sniffing dog's "testimony." Here's hoping the pooch and the policeman alike are put on leave for a while.

NEXT: A First-Rate Burglary

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I don’t think the cop was wrong. I think the law is wrong.

    And the dog was wrong.

  2. I got it! It’s a great new conservation program:

    “Keep your electricity usage under control, or we’ll send the Drug Pigs in to rough you up.”

  3. No one killed this time?
    No heart attacks, handcuffing of the elderly, smashed furniture?

    What kind of police force is this?

  4. I read about this or a similar case a few days ago. Here’s an idea for you entrepreneurs out there: Get a haircut and take elocution lessons so you look and sound respectable. Then, get a house and plug a hundred-watt lamp into every socket. Keep them burning constantly until the cops show up, and show them that you are a respectable person who merely fears the dark. Sue. Win. Then, unplug your lamps and plug in grow lights instead. The cops won’t dare come back.

    I work on a commission basis.

  5. Joe-

    “I don’t think the cop was wrong. I think the law is wrong.”
    The cop was most certainly wrong. No drugs were found. An electricity bill, one unnamed informant, and a hit by a dog are all it takes to invade your home. There is mounting evidence that dogs are considerably less accurate in field work than they are in testing. Unfortunately most states do not require a record of the efficacy of their dogs and I am not aware of any that have procedures for decommissioning a dog after a given amount of false hits (some retrain). The officer claims that his dog storm is 100% accurate in the detection of a dozen drugs. Not anymore. I wonder if he will give his dog less than a 100% rating on the next request for a warrent.

  6. matt,
    Since dogs are considered police officers, you can check to see the accuracy of any given dog. If the dog is below a certain threshold of accuracy, you can challenge the evidence that was discovered by the dog. I have heard this is an effective counter, but IANAL.

    Geez, now I can see why you’re no longer teaching. You’re fucking evil. You remind me of a couple of teachers I had back in the day.

  7. Leave Jennifer alone. She may be evil, but at least she’s my kind of evil.

  8. MALAK, I assure you, that was meant as a compliment. I think Jennifer picked it up. I should have mentioned that the teachers she reminded me of were some of my faves.

  9. Plasma screens (tv’s, computer monitors) also use a lot of electricity. Anyone running a LAN at home with some plasma monitors along with a plasma TV and a menstruating woman disposing tampons in the trash is ripe for targeting.

  10. Simular story in the San Antonio Express News about a week ago. DEA thugs shot a 14 year old girl in the head while surveling for her father.
    The San Antonio DA can`t prosecute due to Federal
    law saying thugs(dea) are immune while on duty.
    Ain`t that some BS!

  11. Mo-
    Evil is such a harsh and judgmental word. I prefer the more diplomatic “conscience-impaired.” And remember: you can’t spell ‘l-i-v-e’ without ‘e-v-i-l.’

    If you think I’m evil, check *this* sucker out. I believe the Latin phrase means “Bastards above all.”:

  12. That warrant signed by a judge and a DA. Blame them, as they are the ones responsible for keeping the cops in line.

  13. You guys are all way wrong on this one. The officers approach is perfectly justified. No one can be 100%. So what if a few mistakes happen, its only a little home invasion. Think of all the dangerous and addictive weed that has been kept off the street, and for Gods sake, think of the children. You know there is nothing that makes children feel more safe than knowing the vice cops are just a busted down door in the middle of the night away.

  14. Mo-

    I am also not a layer. However, I do know that a dog need only give false positives less than 38% of the time to be considered accurate in court (United States v Limares (2001)) and records of efficacy don’t need to be rigorous or kept at all (United States v Hill). In US v Hill the court found that the dog was properly trained and reliable even though 1) the handler testified he did not know exactly what training was required and 2) he had failed to keep a record of the dogs false positive alerts.

  15. Does raise an interesting question about what level of accuracy constitutes probable cause.

    According to a couple of news stories I googled up, the task force found marijuana in 20 of 24 raids. They found marijuana in 21 of 22 homes that the dog alerted at. So overall the task force had accuracy rate of 83% and the dog had an accuracy rate of 95% (not the impossible 100% claimed in the warrant).

    Given that not all searches will find evidence of a crime what is the acceptable level of error? If a police method produces evidence of a crime 83% of time is that high enough to be termed “probable”?

  16. You would think hippies pot growers would use solar power or something. Livin’ off The Man’s grid and all that.. 🙂

  17. This is government in action. Where are the Bush Leaguers to blame the “liberals” for this example of big government?

    After all, the federal marijuana law was passed when FDR was in power. Oh yeah, I guess they would have to criticize the Republicans who have kept the laws in force, and indeed strengthened them.

    Back to the drawing board for the limited government conservatives…

  18. Jennifer, you H&R Hottie,

    Send pics!

    But please don’t double-post them.

    He he he, ha ha, huuuugh…!

  19. From the search warrant:

    “I wish to search said premises…for the following contraband…including but not limited to marijuana, also known as “Weed”, “grass”, “the Devil’s weed” and “Smoke”…”

    At least the Carlsbad PD is down with the lingo, once they finish the crack down on the Smoke and Devil’s Weed addicts maybe they can go after all those teenage girls whacked out on Goofballs and Black Beauties

  20. “There is mounting evidence that dogs are considerably less accurate in field work than they are in testing. Unfortunately most states do not require a record of the efficacy of their dogs and I am not aware of any that have procedures for decommissioning a dog after a given amount of false hits (some retrain).”

    This reminds me of my favourite scene from “K-9:” Jim Belushi shows up at a cannery with his furry partner looking for a huge haul of coke. The dog takes off, runs through the plant, makes a bee-line for a closet, and starts pawing furiously at the door. Belushi opens it up to reveal one Mexican dude smoking a joint.

  21. I’m sorry if this is slightly off topic but there’s nowhere else to post and I’d love to hear people’s thoughts.

    Anyone see the Peter Jennings Ecstasy Rising special? Hopefully they’ll repeat it. Surprisingly balanced. It made the DEA and NIDA look positively ridiculous. Ricaurte and friends have done more to draw attention towards drug law reform than any reformers as of late.

  22. The article suggested that the police were also going to employ the use of a thermal imager to measure heat output, but canceled it due to rain.

    It should be noted that for the past two years, such imaging prior to obtaining an otherwise valid search warrant for the premises requires a separate warrant just to use the TI.

    Before the SCOTUS ruled on that one, police would indeed use the TI first, and then if they detected sufficiently excessive heat in one part of the house, would use the reading as grounds to get a search warrant.

  23. I just thought of a better (i.e. more realistic) plan, but it will only work for people who do NOT smoke pot, but have friends who do. Have your friends save their bongwater, seeds and stems, sticky resin clogs; all the nasty, stinky leftover stuff that totally REEKS of THC. (Or so I’ve heard; my sense of smell is pretty non-existent.)

    Then you, the non-smoker who could easily pass a drug test if you had to, will spray this El Stinko mixture in your hair or on your clothes, mask the stench with perfume (fools humans, but not dogs!) and then go to the airport or some other place where drug-sniffing dogs are bound to frequent. Be nonchalant, and as you wait for the cops to harass you try to read a nice, respectable-looking book with a title like “How To Be a Better Christian” or “Why I (heart) the GOP.” Remember: the nicer you are before the cops started hassling you, the more money you get in the subsequent lawsuit. And don’t forget my commission.

  24. iirc, it reeks of everything but the thc, which is not water-soluble.

    worse yet is bong-water puke, usually induced by convincing some nitwit (drunk, stoned, or high on life) to drink the bongwater.

  25. where are these supposed pics of jennifer?

  26. “Your high electricity bill plan is better, but you’d have to wait for the cops to come down on you before it would work. That could be a long wait.”

    Mo: Just rat yourself out.

    But seriously, this is truly fucked up, that there are people out there who think marijauna is such an evil drug that they would destroy other’s lives. Oh yeah, I’ve been there.

  27. After reading the whole warrant, it seemed perfectly reasoned, assuming everything he said was true. (How the HELL were they using so much energy??)

    I guess I’d like there to be an intermediary step perhaps, instead of jumping straight into barging through the door. But it wouldn’t be realistic for police to walk up to a suspect’s home and ask some preliminary questions. It wouldn’t necessarily blow anything, but that would be dangerous as hell (face it folks, even the people growing pot may whip out a gun).

    Would there be any way for the electric company to work in tandem? Perhaps send a meter man, mentioning the large energy waste, and have him look for any ‘inefficiencies’?

  28. A Differnt Sean: Let’s get back to basics. Legalize it!

  29. Fred,
    Yea, I agree. I just think that the anger shouldn’t be directed at the police, or the judge, or the DA. They’re doing what they ought to.

    Okay, and I’ve done a bit of math on their energy consumption. Good lord these people are ridiculous. They use 47% of the energy on their street (or of their 4 closest neighbors). They use 2.7 times the amount of the next most enregy-using house. Someone needs to teach these assholes how to turn the damn light off when they leave the room.

    Wait… is that you dad?

  30. “Devil’s Weed”? Man, the Devil is lame. Poor bastardcan’t even score coke.
    On another slant. . . if we can make this into a big enough scandal, their house -address convieniently posted- would become the PERFECT place to grow.

  31. One more thing. . . if Jennifer thinks it’s possible to sue the police in a drug sting who managed to obtain a warrant she’s crazy.
    Crazy and a cutie.

  32. “I just think that the anger shouldn’t be directed at the police, or the judge, or the DA. They’re doing what they ought to.”

    I am not impressed by this argument. Wasn’t there a famous twentieth-century trial where it was determined that “I was just following orders and doing my job” is NOT an acceptable excuse for evil? Or being a fuckhead, either.

    Mo et. al.–

    Okay, the bongwater is a bad idea. But what about the rest of it? Use resin scrapings or ditchweed to make some Eau de Pot cologne. Or just find a pot smoker to inhale on you. C’mon, guys, work with me here!

  33. “exhale”, you mean. There’s no messing with the pigs when it comes to marijuana. These guys really do believe that marijuana is an evil drug and a user deserves 20 years in Attica. That’s what they tried to do to me in 1973.

    As long as the Christianists are in control of the Government, there will be no peace for pot smokers. The prohibition laws are also an effective to for attacking minorities and destroying their lives. That is the reason prohibition was implimented back in the 30’s.

  34. That should read “effective tool.” And yeah, if I sound pissed, that’s because I am. It won’t be legal in my lifetime and that’s a god-damn shame. I hope there is a particularly nasty pit in hell for all the prohibitionists and the benefactors.

    By the way, if anyone wants some bong water…

  35. Sheesh, screwed up again. “their benefactors.” And I’m still pissed.

  36. Jennifer, please.

    If you view your right to recreational drugs just as inalieable as your right to life, you’ve got some issues.

    The law should be changed. So should highway speed limits. Do people get this upset with police in a speed trap?

    I didn’t say the cops weren’t dickheads, here. I don’t doubt they weren’t for a second. I don’t know what usually happens when they screw up royally, but I can see problems issuing apologies. I’d buy a nice gift basket if I were the guy who signed off on the warrant, though.

  37. Sean, thanks to the US Government the right to use drugs and the right to live your life are practically the same thing! If the penalties for using drugs were equivalent to the penalties for speeding (fines, possible loss of driving privileges) then I would agree with your analogy.

    But no. Thanks to our government, one puff of a joint truly can destroy your life! Fred’s one of the lucky ones; talk to some guy serving his twentieth year of a thirty-year sentence for possession of pot and explain to him why he’s really got no serious issues to think that his right to life (or rather, right to living) is somehow being fucked with.

    Personally I don’t use drugs, but I have in the past. And I’ll tell you this much: being a pothead never stopped me from reaching my goals in life, but getting arrested damn sure would have!

  38. Jennifer,

    Your prank could backfire. All the piggies need to seize everything you own is to make an accusation. They don’t have to prove a thing. They’ve seized cash as “drug money” with no other grounds for suspicion than the amount a person was carrying. Once they make the accusation (a bare assertion, not a criminal charge), YOU have the burden of proof to get your stuff back. And being marinated in bongwater won’t help your case.

    Anyway, I drank my bongwater back in the day.

  39. I just thought of a better (i.e. more realistic) plan, but it will only work for people who do NOT smoke pot, but have friends who do. Have your friends save their bongwater, seeds and stems, sticky resin clogs; all the nasty, stinky leftover stuff that totally REEKS of THC. (Or so I’ve heard; my sense of smell is pretty non-existent.)

    You don’t want to keep bong water sitting around any longer then absolutely nessecary. It is the most foul smelling thing ever, and if you spill it, plan on having that odor around for a while. I love water pipes, but they’re a horrible idea. Falling asleep and spilling bong water on your lap is so not cool and it makes the bitches wonder why the junk stinks.

  40. Kevin-
    Good point. I forgot, civil disobedience only works when fighting a civil enemy, not the evil sanctimonious bastards who ruin people’s lives and then insist it’s for their own good.

  41. I didn’t have the stomach to read the entire warrant. So maybe this is in there, but how did this officer get access to this family’s electricity bill?

  42. I am so fucked!

    I have a small LAN in my house, and I sometimes fall asleep and forget to turn off the PCs or some of the lights in my house. Needless to say, my electricy is through the roof!

    On top of that, I also don’t take out my garbage until the day of collection. My fiancee says its b/c the dogs get to it during the night, honestly I just get lazy at night and don’t do it ’til the morning.

    High electric bill, coupled with suspicious garbage behavior, makes me one hell of a suspect, regardless of the fact I’ve never even smoked a fatty. ‘Though I couldn’t care less if others have or haven’t. Although… there was that time in a Pink Floyd concert, second-hand smoke and all…

  43. Utility records were subpoenaed based upon the one annonimous tip.

    It says that Storm is 100% proficient (ie passed all training), not 100% effective.

    Still very loose evidence for a warrent. Hell, I’m amazed the original subpoena went through to get the utility bill and drug dog.

  44. matt,

    The cop was obviously incorrect, but I don’t see where any of his actions were improper (except maybe that “Devil’s Weed” language). He gets a tip; maybe it’s bs, maybe it’s good, so he digs a little more and subpoenas their eletricity bill – if the bill shows normal usage, then the tip was bs. But the bill shows higher than normal usage. This could mean a lot of things, one of which is they’re growing weed, so it might support the tip. So the cop digs more, and does the doggy search, which indicates that there is weed being grown inside. So he gets a search warrant for the house.

    This is not a story about a bad cop. With drug laws on the books, this is exactly how the cops are supposed to behave. Put the blame where it belongs.

  45. Sorry, Evilcor: call me naive if you must (and please, keep calling me cute as well), but I can’t believe that they wouldn’t be able to sue on this. Yes, the cop had a warrant, but it was based upon what turned out to be a bogus anonymous tip.

    I understand the necessity of anonymous tipsters–otherwise folks would be too scared to tell the cops about murderers and Mafia dons and the like–but I also think that they should LOSE their anonymity as soon as the tip is proven to be bogus. When I read about this case elsewhere, the story said the whole thing got started due to an anonymous tip that this family was dealing drugs.

    Personally, I think the cop made up this alleged tip to save his own bacony ass.

  46. “…Fucking rediculous simply an outrage!…”

    -Ebert & Roeper

  47. I don’t put my garbage out the night before because I don’t want raccoons rummaging through it. But I guess I’m just weird or something…

  48. crimethink,

    In my training and experience, drug dealers often refer to narcotics officers as “raccoons.”

    Please prepare for a full body cavity search.

  49. Jen,
    But you couldn’t sue based on your eau de bong cologne/perfume (yuck). I’m with Gus, bong water is some of the most vile smelling shit out there. It doesn’t reek of THC, it just reeks. Your high electricity bill plan is better, but you’d have to wait for the cops to come down on you before it would work. That could be a long wait.

  50. I’m curious as to what a “Christianist” is, and what it has to do with pot.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.