Drug Policy

Another Isolated Incident

|

Fish tank, meth lab—whatever.

Brooklyn Park police were looking for a meth lab, but they found a fish tank and the chemicals needed to maintain it.

And a few hours later, when the city sent a contractor to fix the door the police had smashed open Monday afternoon, it was obvious the city was trying to fix a mistake.

It happened while Kathy Adams was sleeping.

"And the next thing I know, a police officer is trying to get me out bed," she said.

And what thorough investigative work precipitated this raid?

Roehl said the drug task force was acting on a tip from a subcontractor for CenterPoint Energy, who had been in the home Friday to install a hot water heater.

"He got hit with a chemical smell that he said made him light headed, feel kind of nauseous," Roehl said.

The smell was vinegar, and maybe pickling lime, which were clearly marked in a bathroom Mr. Adams uses to mix chemicals for his salt water fish tank.

"I said, 'I call it his laboratory for his fish tanks,' " Mrs. Adams said, recalling her conversation with the CenterPoint technician. "I'm looking at the fish tank talking to this guy."

Police say there was no extended investigation, just an interview with the subcontractor.

Still, no one did anything wrong.

"From a cursory view, it doesn't look like our officers did anything wrong," said Capt. Greg Roehl.

[…]

"Everything this person told us turned out to be true, with the exception of what the purpose of the lab was," Roehl said.

[…]

Police say the detective who asked for the search warrant is an 8 ½-year veteran, but he just started working in the drug task force.

CenterPoint energy maintains the home was "unsafe" and it would have "irresponsible" for the subcontractor not to report it.

Advertisement

NEXT: Grand Theft Smasheroo

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 Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. sigh.

    thank you Radley! Your work is very important, and we all appreciate your efforts! THANK YOU!!!

  2. Sounds like a big, fat, juicy lawsuit against Centerpoint to me.

  3. Once again, a situation where knocking on the door, showing the warrant, and then having a good laugh at the technician with the home owner would have been the proper procedure.

  4. Only through aggressive lawsuits will it become too expensive for police departments to rely on unverified information for useless raids…

  5. Jesus Christ. I get into Japanese maples, and they raid a Japanese maple guy. Now I’m getting into fish tanks, and this happens. I feel like Tweak on South Park.

    I hope Centerpoint gets its ass sued off.

  6. “Everything this person told us turned out to be true, with the exception of what the purpose of the lab was,” Roehl said.

    “Everything was true except the only relevant part” is a bold way to brush off a question.

  7. If wrongful raids resulted in a hefty compensation from the police department that was made up for in uncompensated overtime or a loss of vacation days for those responsible this would all come to an end.

  8. I wondered about whether my tank would cause someone to raise their eyebrows. Not because of the chemicals, though. Because the lights are on for about 10 hours a day.

  9. So glad to know that some repairmen have decided that it’s their role to be rats. That government propaganda took time, but it’s finally bearing fruit.

    Ratting your fucking customers out? If CenterPoint has the slightest clue, they will fire Snitchy McRat immediately. They should still be sued, though.

  10. Episiarch,I agree.The first thing this guy did was call the police.Are some so brain washed that anything they can’t understand must be drugs? I have chemicals for my pool,hot tub,lawn and fruit trees.My building is full.I’m sure something in there can be liked to drugs.Not to mention the cold meds in my bathroom.

  11. The guy can run a salt water aquarium but can’t install his own hot water heater?

  12. This is scary, I have a fish tank with lots of chemicals to test the water. The fish lights are on 14 + hrs/day. I have a hydroponic set to grow tomatoes, lights on 16 hrs/day. I buy sudafed a lot for chronic allergies. Guess I should worry.

  13. Tym,
    Just go to your local police station and give them a set of keys to your house.

  14. James Ard | April 29, 2008, 9:16am | #

    The guy can run a salt water aquarium but can’t install his own hot water heater?

    I’d have trouble installing a hot water heater, too. A water heater, however, should be a cinch!

  15. Isn’t lime alkaline? Mixed with vinegar in a closed container it could explode! This guy might be a terrorist. Someone call Homeland Security!

  16. Tym,

    Beef up your doors, just in case

  17. jimmydageek,

    Theoretically, James could be talking about a water heater that takes the heated water from his first water heater and makes it even hotter.

    Maybe don’t be so quick to judge, Mr. Pedant. Maybe James needs near-boiling temps in his shower to feel truly clean. Or perhaps his television is steam-powered.

  18. The post called it a hot water heater first, which I believe is standard terminology for the things. But, it’s Brooklyn Park, so maybe the water heater was stolen?

  19. I’m coming to the conclusion that the WoD and the prison industry have too tight a hold on the public for it to ever end. However, I do think the public could eaily be convinced that smarter police officers would be a “public good” “for the children”.

    How about a push for a minimum IQ of 130 for cops? Musical, social, genral G, whatever, so long as the person ranks two standard deviations above the average they’re allowed to join the force.

    I think that would end the problems with bad raids right there.

  20. CenterPoint energy maintains the home was “unsafe” and it would have “irresponsible” for the subcontractor not to report it.

    Unsafe how, exactly?

    And oh, yeah, I’d be suing my utility company if they fingered me for a drug raid. Falsely telling people someone is a drug user, much less a drug manufacturer, is slander per se, so you’re looking at six figure recoveries. Not sure if reports to cops are privileged in this context, but the embarassment factor alone is likely to get you a good settlement.

  21. In some jurisdictions a home owner is prohibited from messing with gas lines and/or water lines and has to call the appropriate utility. Given that he called an energy company I bet that he needed it hooked up to his natural gas line.

  22. Isn’t lime alkaline? Mixed with vinegar in a closed container it could explode! This guy might be a terrorist. Someone call Homeland Security!

    The vinegar is not actually used in the tank. I use it to clean the glass, to soak powerheads, to clean up salt creep, etc. It’s safer to use becuase it won’t have too much of an effect on ph. You don’t want to use ammonia based cleaners anywhere near a fish tank, salt or fresh.

  23. Apparently the employees at the CenterPoint energy company are unaware of the “STOP SNITCHING!” movement. I take it upon myself to mass email them til they get the message.

  24. “From a cursory view, it doesn’t look like our officers did anything wrong,” said Capt. Greg Roehl.

    Translation – We’re way too arrogant to admit, even to ourselves, that this was a blatant misuse of police power.

  25. I presume Kathy Adams will now be switching to another supplier (CenterPoint appears to be a competitive supplier in a deregulated energy market), and telling all her friends and neighbors to do the same.

  26. One of those interests is the protection of human life and limb, because an unannounced entry may provoke violence in supposed self-defense by the surprised resident. See, e.g., McDonald v. United States, 335 U. S. 451, 460-461 (1948) (Jackson, J., concurring). See also Sabbath, 391 U. S., at 589; Miller, 357 U. S., at 313, n. 12. Another interest is the protection of property. Breaking a house (as the old cases typically put it) absent an announcement would penalize someone who ” ‘did not know of the process, of which, if he had notice, it is to be presumed that he would obey it ? .’ ” Wilson, 514 U. S., at 931-932 (quoting Semayne’s Case, 5 Co. Rep. 91a, 91b, 77 Eng. Rep. 194, 195-196 (K. B. 1603)). The knock-and-announce rule gives individuals “the opportunity to comply with the law and to avoid the destruction of property occasioned by a forcible entry.” Richards, 520 U. S., at 393, n. 5. See also Banks, 540 U. S., at 41. And thirdly, the knock-and-announce rule protects those elements of privacy and dignity that can be destroyed by a sudden entrance. It gives residents the “opportunity to prepare themselves for” the entry of the police. Richards, 520 U. S., at 393, n. 5. “The brief interlude between announcement and entry with a warrant may be the opportunity that an individual has to pull on clothes or get out of bed.” Ibid. In other words, it assures the opportunity to collect oneself before answering the door.

    . . .

    We cannot assume that exclusion in this context is necessary deterrence simply because we found that it was necessary deterrence in different contexts and long ago. That would be forcing the public today to pay for the sins and inadequacies of a legal regime that existed almost half a century ago. Dollree Mapp could not turn to 42 U. S. C. ?1983 for meaningful relief; Monroe v. Pape, 365 U. S. 167 (1961) , which began the slow but steady expansion of that remedy, was decided the same Term as Mapp. It would be another 17 years before the ?1983 remedy was extended to reach the deep pocket of municipalities, Monell v. New York City Dept. of Social Servs., 436 U. S. 658 (1978) . Citizens whose Fourth Amendment rights were violated by federal officers could not bring suit until 10 years after Mapp, with this Court’s decision in Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, 403 U. S. 388 (1971) .

    Hudson complains that “it would be very hard to find a lawyer to take a case such as this,” Tr. of Oral Arg. 7, but 42 U. S. C. ?1988(b) answers this objection. Since some civil-rights violations would yield damages too small to justify the expense of litigation, Congress has authorized attorney’s fees for civil-rights plaintiffs. This remedy was unavailable in the heydays of our exclusionary-rule jurisprudence, because it is tied to the availability of a cause of action. For years after Mapp, “very few lawyers would even consider representation of persons who had civil rights claims against the police,” but now “much has changed. Citizens and lawyers are much more willing to seek relief in the courts for police misconduct.” M. Avery, D. Rudovsky, & K. Blum, Police Misconduct: Law and Litigation, p. v (3d ed. 2005); see generally N. Aron, Liberty and Justice for All: Public Interest Law in the 1980s and Beyond (1989) (describing the growth of public-interest law). The number of public-interest law firms and lawyers who specialize in civil-rights grievances has greatly expanded.

    Hudson points out that few published decisions to date announce huge awards for knock-and-announce violations. But this is an unhelpful statistic. Even if we thought that only large damages would deter police misconduct (and that police somehow are deterred by “damages” but indifferent to the prospect of large ?1988 attorney’s fees), we do not know how many claims have been settled, or indeed how many violations have occurred that produced anything more than nominal injury. It is clear, at least, that the lower courts are allowing colorable knock-and-announce suits to go forward, unimpeded by assertions of qualified immunity. See, e.g., Green v. Butler, 420 F. 3d 689, 700-701 (CA7 2005) (denying qualified immunity in a knock-and-announce civil suit); Holland ex rel. Overdorff v. Harrington, 268 F. 3d 1179, 1193-1196 (CA10 2001) (same); Mena v. Simi Valley, 226 F. 3d 1031, 1041-1042 (CA9 2000) (same); Gould v. Davis, 165 F. 3d 265, 270-271 (CA4 1998) (same). As far as we know, civil liability is an effective deterrent here, as we have assumed it is in other contexts. See, e.g., Correctional Services Corp. v. Malesko, 534 U. S. 61, 70 (2001) (“[T]he threat of litigation and liability will adequately deter federal officers for Bivens purposes no matter that they may enjoy qualified immunity” (as violators of knock-and-announce do not)); see also Nix v. Williams, 467 U. S. 431, 446 (1984) .

    Another development over the past half-century that deters civil-rights violations is the increasing professionalism of police forces, including a new emphasis on internal police discipline. Even as long ago as 1980 we felt it proper to “assume” that unlawful police behavior would “be dealt with appropriately” by the authorities, United States v. Payner, 447 U. S. 727 , n. 5 (1980), but we now have increasing evidence that police forces across the United States take the constitutional rights of citizens seriously. There have been “wide-ranging reforms in the education, training, and supervision of police officers.” S. Walker, Taming the System: The Control of Discretion in Criminal Justice 1950-1990, p. 51 (1993). Numerous sources are now available to teach officers and their supervisors what is required of them under this Court’s cases, how to respect constitutional guarantees in various situations, and how to craft an effective regime for internal discipline. See, e.g., D. Waksman & D. Goodman, The Search and Seizure Handbook (2d ed. 2006); A. Stone & S. DeLuca, Police Administration: An Introduction (2d ed. 1994); E. Thibault, L. Lynch, & R. McBridge, Proactive Police Management (4th ed. 1998). Failure to teach and enforce constitutional requirements exposes municipalities to financial liability. See Canton v. Harris, 489 U. S. 378, 388 (1989) . Moreover, modern police forces are staffed with professionals; it is not credible to assert that internal discipline, which can limit successful careers, will not have a deterrent effect. There is also evidence that the increasing use of various forms of citizen review can enhance police accountability.

  27. CenterPoint appears to be a competitive supplier

    I spent about 14 years in the Twin Cities and lived in several burbs. I never had a choice of gas or electric company. Brooklyn Park may be different, but I doubt it.

  28. Why can’t everyone just mind their own fucking business? The percentage of the adult population that believe it is their civic duty to not mind their own fucking business astounds me.

  29. ChuckG:

    Why can’t everyone just mind their own fucking business

    Its for the children or else the terrorists have already won for the greater benefit of society you can’t expect people to take care of themselves this never happened back in the good old days we need to do something. Or something along those lines.

  30. Radley, your disgusting shilling for these merchants of slavery and death at Big Aquarium is nothing short of reprehensible.

    Free markets, free minds… but what about free fish?

  31. Why can’t everyone just mind their own fucking business

    Clearly, someone is not thinking of the children. Or the fish. Or the fish children.

  32. “From a cursory view, it doesn’t look like our officers did anything wrong,” said Capt. Greg Roehl.

    I assume by cursory view he means the “what fucking hell were you goddamned moron assholes doing??” view.

  33. Are some so brain washed that anything they can’t understand must be drugs?

    It’s not that bad. After all, most people know that electronics they don’t understand must be bombs!

    What pisses me off about these cases is that it’s NEVER anybody’s fault. Nobody ever gets in trouble for this sort of crap.

  34. Salt water fish tanks are really cool.

    Deputizing untrained water heater repairmen to provide tips on meth labs, which are then used to get warrants for drug raids, not so much.

  35. What if thiis guy is raising psychoactive fish in his tank, so he can eat them and get high? It’s a risk no self-respecting water heater installer can afford to accept.

  36. Wouldn’t happen when Jesse Ventura was mayor, he’d kick ass in Brooklyn Park. Jesse knows salt water.

  37. How about a push for a minimum IQ of 130 for cops?

    Try “a minimum of 90” for now. Baby steps.

  38. Deputizing untrained water heater repairmen to provide tips on meth labs, which are then used to get warrants for drug raids, not so much.

    It does have a very Stasi quality to it. It’s not very comforting to think that every person I let in my home is looking for violations of the law to call in(and by this, I don’t mean that a worker should call in evidence of a crime) and worse when they’re mistaking unusual yet innocent items for “drug lab materials”.

  39. It seems to me that I’m hearing a lot more about these repairman/informant stories than I used to.

    I recall that, shortly after 9/11, the government announced a program which encouraged people who visit private homes, like repairmen, to report suspicions of terrorism-related activitiy.

    Migration?

  40. “Everything this person told us turned out to be true, with the EXCEPTION of what the purpose of the lab was”…
    now, now, now – you don’t know that. The purpose of th lab was to grow fish WHO WOULD MANUFACTURE METH. See, you made a mistake in not taking the event to its logical conclusion.

  41. Stupid police. Don’t they have some other way to verify this sort of thing? Surely they must have? Or is it just they really, really enjoy conducting no-knock (or semi-no-knock) raids and will use any excuse to do so.

  42. This just proves my point that they are so gung-ho to make arrests andpad stats that they take absolutely ZERO time investigating anything beyond the original tip for validity.

    Thus again I say we must start making anon tips to police of meth labs, pot farms and people selling drugs from their homes. Giving them only the addresses of politicians/judges, their families and friends. We know they will not take the time to fact check a damn thing all they will see is another bust just waiting for them to take down.

    This is the only way this will change. You must make it their problem or it is never seen as a problem at all. Once they are directly affected they will change things damn quickly.

    Perhaps a flood of tips just running the SS all over creation for nothing just sending them to nowhere will help also. Since they are so apt to react to tips without any investigating seems we could have them really busy wasting their time. When the % of tips that lead to anything drops to less than 10% just maybe they will quit bothering chasing their own asses.

  43. From now on, I work on my own shit.

  44. I recall that, shortly after 9/11, the government announced a program which encouraged people who visit private homes, like repairmen, to report suspicions of terrorism-related activitiy.

    Migration?

    Joe, the post 9/11 terrorism fight and the drug war became one in the same almost immediately. Right after the stupid ‘shoe bomber incident’ occurred, and they started making people remove their shoes, they’d swab them. My mother-in-law asked what they were swabbing for, the TSA official said (without batting an eye) “Drugs”. This was within a week of the shoe bomber incident.

  45. I’m with Dee. Call from a public place near the home in question. Say you were over there and left because the scene was just too much for you. Say some child might be in the room with the drugs. Watch the comedy ensue.

  46. The guy can run a salt water aquarium but can’t install his own hot water heater?

    Quick, what are your local building code/permit requirements for installing a water heater in a private dwelling? And as above, it’s probably a gas water heater.

    How about a push for a minimum IQ of 130 for cops?

    Seems like I read somewhere that many departments have a maximum IQ level to weed out the nerds.

  47. Use a guppy, go to jail.

  48. These incidents won’t stop until it becomes too dangerous to break down door in the middle of the night. Once the masked thugs have to start hauling out several of their comrades in body bags on these home invasions they’ll probably reconsider the practice. Once they know that invading someone’s home in the manner in which they’re doing now will most likely result in one or more of them not going home at the end of their shift then they’re going to be much less enthusiastic about busting down doors and brutalizing people.

    Adrenaline, playing dress up with the entire “Blackhawk” catalog, kicking in doors and brutalizing people becomes much less fun when it involved more substantial risk. After all, it isn’t about protecting and serving or any other bullshit for public consumption. It is about going home at the end of the shift. nothing else matters. This business of putting your life on the line to protect or save Joe Citizen is so much horseshit. Joe Citizen means dick. It’s about getting home at the end of the shift.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.