Drug Policy

Police Dog Named "Bono" Plays By Own Rules, Plants Drug Evidence at Virtually Every Crime Scene

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The Virginia State Police has at least one very dirty cop: a K-9 pooch named "Bono" that has an uncanny ability to detect illegal drugs. Especially when there aren't any present.

The four-legged crime fighter working for the Virginia State Police has been on a hot streak, detecting drugs nearly every time he's on the job. In reality, however, illegal narcotics were found just 22 times of the 85 'alerts' by the dog.

That was the argument public defender Randy Cargill representing Herbert Green, 45, tried to use to suppress the 1.5 kilogram of cocaine found in his client's SUV with Bono's help, the Roanoke Times reported….

Cargill argued that Bono's track record was so poor that police lacked probable cause to search Green's SUV in the first place.

Oh, Cargill, you poor bastard. You probably thought that expert testimony had to be, you know, expert or something. What happened next:

Bono 'may not be a model of canine accuracy,' [federal Judge Glen] Conrad wrote in an opinion filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Roanoke.

However, the judge ruled that other factors, including the dog's training and flawless performance during re-certification sessions, were enough to overcome a challenge raised by Green's attorney.

And there's this:

[A prosecutor] explained that in some cases where nothing was found after an alert by Bono, police later determined that cocaine or marijuana had been in the vehicle hours earlier, leaving a scent the dog was trained to detect.

Bono's handler Trooper Brian Dillon testified that variables such as wind and the possibility of well-stashed drugs in a car would affect the numbers cited by the defense.

'It's just a big game of hide-and-seek with the canine,' Dillon said.

Read more.

Don't you see? It's just a game. A big freaking game.

Back in 2011, Radley Balko (then at Reason, now at Huffington Post) wrote about the incredibly shakey record that police dogs have in turning up drugs. Or, more precisely, how independent and rigorous studies show that—duh—police dogs follow cues from their oh-so-human handlers and, as a result, generate an enormous amount of false positives, especially when dealing with black and hispanic suspects.

Read this:

A recent Chicago Tribune survey of traffic stops by suburban police departments from 2007 to 2009, for example, found that searches turned up contraband in just 44 percent of the cases where police dogs alerted to the presence of narcotics. (An alert is a signal, such as barking or sitting, that dogs are trained to display when they detect the target scent.) In stops involving Hispanic drivers, the dogs' success rate was just 27 percent. The two largest departments the Tribune surveyed—the Chicago Police Department and the Illinois State Police—said they don't even keep track of such information.

Summarizing a study done by University of California-Davis researchers, Balko noted:

Dog/handler teams correctly completed a search with no alerts in just 21 of the 144 walk-throughs. The other 123 searches produced an astounding 225 alerts, every one of them false. Even more interesting, the search points designed to trick the handlers (marked by the red slips of paper) were about twice as likely to trigger false alerts as the search points designed to trick the dogs (by luring them with sausages)….

And more:

In 2006 University of North Carolina law professor Richard Myers conducted a statistical analysis(PDF) of police dog accuracy tests and concluded that the animals were not reliable enough to produce probable cause for a search, let alone serve as the cornerstone of a conviction. At least five states have banned or restricted the use of scent lineups in criminal cases, but they are still frequently used in courtrooms across the country.

Man's best friend? Hardly. The MAN's best friend? Definitely.

Nick Gillespie is co-author with Matt Welch of The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong With America, now out in paperback with a new foreword. Follow him on Twitter.

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  1. The dog’s job is not to detect drugs, but to give the officer an excuse to harass innocent people, violate their privacy and destroy their property.

    You know. Show them who’s boss. Respect mah authoritah!

    So in that respect the dog is performing perfectly.

    1. They especially love it when they get to do it at people’s places of employment. A co-worker a few years ago got pulled over turning into work (the officer said he had a broken tail-light) even though it was working perfectly. Luckily for him, the cop suspected he smelled like weed, called in the dog handler (in our office parking lot) and sniffed the car. As you can guess, the dog “hit” and they tore apart his car. He had TONS of shit in it (since he was living between his house and his girlfriends house at the time). They pulled it all out, put it on the sidewalk in front of all of us watching from our office. They opened everything (they even searched the battery compartment of his calculator…). After they didn’t find any drugs, they just left all his shit on the sidewalk for him to clean up. They spent almost 2 hours going through his car in the parking lot to our office, finding nothing, and making him very late (obviously) for work. But they are just trying to protect us from the scourge of drugs (in an upper-middle class white neighborhood)…

      1. But they are just trying to protect us from the scourge of drugs (in an upper-middle class white neighborhood).

        Are you saying that this would be OK in other neighborhoods?

      2. But they are just trying to protect us from the scourge of drugs (in an upper-middle class white neighborhood).

        Are you saying are there neighborhoods that this would be OK in?

      3. Are you saying are there neighborhoods that this would be OK in?

        1. I’m not dyslexic, I just had to type that 3 times and omit the quote because the spam filter is turning up more false positives than the police dogs.

  2. You know who else followed cues from their oh-so-human handlers and, as a result, generated an enormous amount of false positives, especially when dealing with black and hispanic suspects.

    1. 7-11 store clerks?

    2. The correct answer was:

      GWAR.

    3. C.H.O.M.P.S.?

    4. Nixon’s dog Chester.

      1. My friend’s Doberman, named Nixon.

  3. Also, that’s some fine alt-textin’ there, Lou (Nick).

    /wiggum

  4. If bacon ever becomes contraband (and that certainly seems possible in the Republic of Michael Bloomberg), then my dog is on this case. His accuracy rate will be nearly 100%.

  5. They should replace Bono the drug dog with Washington the drug coin (heads you get searched). He would be twice as accurate.

    1. Don’t you have to know how many times the dog didn’t alert to be able to say anything close to that?

      1. According to the article, Bono “has been on a hot streak, detecting drugs nearly every time he’s on the job.”

        So I guess I was wrong that the coin would be twice as accurate, probably only 50% more accurate.

        1. The UCD study was brutal. Reality is probably similarly brutal to Bono, I just don’t think we have the numbers to know with any kind of certainty. Not that reality has anything to do with it since it is so important for us to stamp out the scourge of drugs.

      2. “In reality, however, illegal narcotics were found just 22 times of the 85 ‘alerts’ by the dog.”

        I’ll take the coin.

  6. So what you’re saying is that dog still hasn’t found what he’s looking for.

    1. Well it’s tough, since dealers move in mysterious ways.

      1. *tweet*

        PENALTY! NUMBER #42! BEING TOO WHITE!

  7. The accuracy of the drug dogs is now a matter of unassailable faith? When no drugs are found, its either because they are just so well hidden, or were just removed? There is no way to falsify a positive, in short?

    1. Pretty much. Although I think reason reported on a judge in FL who ruled that cops didn’t have probable cause in a similar case.

    2. The dogs are officers of the law. They would never lie.

      1. It requires a handler for a dog to lie. The Dog tells the truth every time. Yes, I want that treat, so I’ma bark!

        1. The handler is a cop as well. He can’t lie either.

    3. Well, it’s more that there’s a certification and training process. The process was followed, the dog has government certification and regulation, and therefore is never wrong.

      After all, due process simply means that there is a process that you do, right?

    4. Like the article states, if the dog is “Wrong,” it’s only because DRUGZ were there hours prior. Or after. You know, whatever.

    5. Can’t we just skip the dog part and depend on police officer acumen.

  8. The bomb dogs I worked around had a fairly similar rate of detection…none too good.

    Its the 21st Century – where are our hand held scanalyzers?!

    1. Being suppressed by the canine-industrial complex.

    2. Congrats on the retirement.

    3. On the other hand, here is a fascinating project on landmine-detecting rats in Mozambique:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/APOPO

      Then, there is this: “Furthermore, rats do not form a bond with a specific trainer but rather are motivated to work for food. This adaptability allows for the trained rats to be transferred between handlers.”

  9. It means he gets results, you stupid chief!

    1. McGrrrnigle?

  10. I would like to point out that even though this evidentiary ruling is wrong, wrong, wrong, there is still the jury to consider. If they’re too dumb to think through the fact that this puppy is only 25% accurate, then things may be a bit more dire than I first thought.

    1. They’re that dumb, and things are worse than you think.

    2. First, we don’t know that the dog was only 25% accurate.

      Second, what rate of accuracy do you think should be necessary to justify a search?

      Third, even if the jurors think through the dog’s failure rate, the cops still found DRUGS!!! so the dog was “right” in this case and I bet that’s all any of them will care about.

      Fourth, yes, I think the dogs are largely subject to alerting when their handlers want them to alert and aren’t much more than a subterfuge to justify cops’ hunches and/or prejudices.

      1. Second, what rate of accuracy do you think should be necessary to justify a search?

        You assume I accept the premise that a canine should be used to search for drugs to give the officer PC for arrest. I do not accept such a premise.

        1. It doesn’t have to the accuracy of the dog. Imagine whatever mechanism you deem suitable for generating probable cause and then consider what you believe its accuracy rate need be.

          And, no, I don’t assume that a canine should be used to search for drugs to give the officer PC for arrest, which I think should have been made clear by my “Fourth…”

    3. The problem at that point is that there’s still 1.5 kilos of coke in the defendant’s possession. Unless the jury has several nullificationists on it, he’s fucked.

    4. The problem at that point is that there’s still 1.5 kilos of coke in the defendant’s possession. Unless the jury has several nullificationists on it, he’s fucked.

      1. This is about whether that can be introduced at trial, so the jury may never know.

        1. I thought the point Randian was raising was after this judge has already ruled the evidence admissable, can the defense argue that the policy was wrong and the jury shouldn’t consider it.

      2. The problem at that point is that there’s still 1.5 kilos of coke in the defendant’s possession.

        I don’t see a problem with this.

    5. There’s no guarantee the judge will allow this to be brought up at trial.

  11. Bono ‘may not be a model of canine accuracy,’ [federal Judge Glen] Conrad wrote in an opinion filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Roanoke.

    However, the judge ruled that other factors, including the dog’s training and flawless performance during re-certification sessions, were enough to overcome a challenge raised by Green’s attorney.

    Sounds like the police dog’s union has borrowed some talking points from the teachers’ unions.

  12. My bro has a collie mix that can smack a volleyball into a pool net like a seal with about twenty percent accuracy. Which makes him better at the free throw line than Shaq. However, his best talent is at the rebound, when he just wants to pass the ball to someone else, deadly smack your head accuracy.

    1. My Pomeranian is nearly 100 percent in catching treats tossed her way. Get it anywhere near her head, and she’ll snatch it, fast as lightning, with expert timing. It’s so entertaining, she is, at 18 pounds, 6 pounds overweight.

  13. A rational person would think the horrid failure of this dog in the real world combined with his stellar performance in training and “re-certification” would cast doubt on the training and certification process. Unfortunately, the judge does not appear to be a rational person.

    1. I’d think the same should apply to colleges and those with college degrees, too.

      1. Only bachelor’s degrees. PhD’s are unassailable certifications of intelluhgence.

        1. I’d argue for my JD but there is too much evidence against it that I can’t do so with a straight face even in lawyer mode.

    2. The judge is reluctant to throw out decades of precedent. He’s very rational.

      If he overturns that search, then any canine search can be overturned. Cops and prosecutors have ordered their lives around these searches… stare decisis… we can’t just shut this industry down.

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    1. Bono smells bullshit.

      1. It’s probably a false alert.

  15. “Man’s best friend? Hardly. The MAN’s best friend? Definitely.”

    Don’t fall for it! This dog is clearly a criminal mastermind.

  16. police dogs […] generate an enormous amount of false positives

    Would that be anything like an enormous number of false positives (because they can be counted, you know).

    /pet-peeve

    1. amount:

      2: to reach a total : add up

      http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/amount

      My pet-peeve? People with stupid pet-peeves.

      1. You shouldn’t have quoted from the verb definition.

        Number is regularly used with count nouns (a large number of mistakes) (any number of times) while amount is mainly used with mass nouns (annual amount of rainfall) (a substantial amount of money). The use of amount with count nouns has been frequently criticized; it usually occurs when the number of things is thought of as a mass or collection (glad to furnish any amount of black pebbles ? New Yorker) (a substantial amount of film offers ? Lily Tomlin) or when money is involved (a substantial amount of loans ? E. R. Black).

  17. So I guess the lesson here is that I should just avoid the state of Virginia entirely? That the police apparatus is corrupt that even the K-9 cops are crooked?

  18. I hate to fault the dog, who’s just doing what he’s been trained to do: alert whenever officer Authoritah signals him to do so.

    1. That’s what the Nazi death camp guard dogs said at Nuremberg.

    2. Yeah, he get’s treats and atta boys when he “finds” drugs. duh

  19. Man’s best friend? Hardly.

    Yes, dogs are indeed man’s best friend. As they say, a friend will help you move, but a good friend will help you move a dead body. A dog, on the other hand, will help you move a dead body, and then ask “where’s the next one?”

  20. I hate it when liberal arts types start trying to use statistics, and this is an example of why. I high rate of false positives is the result of the fact that most cars don’t have drugs in them, not becase there’s something wrong with the dog:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayes‘_theorem (in particular look at the “drug testing” section)

    The problem isn’t the sensor, it’s the entire experimental design. Even if you had a perfectly objective drug detector and a honest cop who wasn’t just looking for an excuse to ignore the fourth ammendment, you’d still be getting tons of false positives. The real problem here is the entire idea of picking out “suspicious” people you have no reason to believe are engaged in criminal behavior and then testing them in hopes of finding some.

  21. Next must have cop tool. A forked stick that “detects” drugs with proper traning of course.

  22. cheap nba jerseys Chicago Tribune survey of traffic stops by suburban police departments from seem to be able to custom nba jerseys provide us with commitment, said:” Tom Hicks, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for energy.

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