Florida

Watch a Florida Cop Botch a Drug Field Test on Video, Then Arrest an Innocent Man

The same officer was fired last year after video of him allegedly planting drugs in a car during a traffic stop emerged.

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Body camera footage obtained by Reason appears to show a now-fired Florida sheriff's deputy blatantly lying about the results of a roadside drug test during a traffic stop last year.

The video shows the April 17, 2018, traffic stop of Florida resident Steve Vann by former Jackson County Sheriff's deputy Zachary Wester. Vann was subsequently charged with possession of methamphetamines and paraphernalia as a result of the traffic stop, but state prosecutors later dropped those charges as part of a review of more than 250 cases that Wester was involved in since his hiring in 2016.

State prosecutors have dropped criminal charges in more than 100 cases involving Wester after body cam footage released last September showed the officer allegedly planting drugs in a car during another traffic stop. A Florida judge also vacated the sentences of eight people whose convictions were based on evidence and testimony by Wester. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement launched an investigation into Wester, and several people have filed federal lawsuits against him.

In the body cam footage obtained by Reason of Vann's arrest last year, Wester searches Vann's truck after pulling him over for a traffic violation and appears to find a small plastic baggie in the vehicle's center console.

"Honesty is going to go a long way with me," Wester tells Vann, holding up the baggie. "Have you ever seen this before?"

"No, no what is that?" Vann says. "Where'd you get that?"

"The center console," Wester says as he walks back to his cruiser to perform a roadside test of the baggie for methamphetamines.

"There ain't no way, man," a distraught Vann says. "Oh my god, you gotta be fucking kidding me."

Wester then uses a Nark II field test for methamphetamines and MDMA. According to the manufacturer, the field test "will develop an IMMEDIATE (within 2 seconds) Dark Blue color as a positive reaction after breakage and agitation of the 3rd ampoule. If the color development is an immediate Pink slowly transforming to Lavender, you DO NOT have either Methamphetamine or MDMA."

Wester shakes the field test for about 10 seconds, checking it several times, but it remains red. Looking right at the small bag of pinkish red liquid, Wester then says "blue" and returns to Vann to tell him the substance tested presumptively positive for methamphetamines. The field test occurs at roughly the 3:45 mark in the video above.

Reason

The Jackson County Sheriff's Office confirmed to Reason that it uses the Nark II field test and that a positive result for methamphetamines should turn the solution blue.

Wester presses Vann to admit that he knew the meth was in his car, but Vann, breaking into tears at several points, continues to deny knowing where it came from. He appears confused and devastated throughout the exchange.

"I'm going to have to take your vehicle, too," Wester tells Vann. "Listen buddy, I don't think you're a bad guy."

At one point, at around 11 minutes 50 seconds into the footage, Wester drops some of Vann's personal effects into the trunk of his police cruiser, at which point he picks up the field test and looks at it again. It's still clearly red.

The Tallahassee Democrat first reported last September that local prosecutors were dropping dozens of cases involving Wester after body cam footage appeared to show him planting a small baggie of meth in a woman's car during a traffic stop.

The Democrat later published accounts by several other people who claimed they were framed by Wester during traffic stops. Before joining the Jackson County Sheriff's Office, Wester was fired from his previous job at the Liberty County Sheriff's Office for for inappropriate relations with women, the newspaper reported.

In 2016, The New York Times reported that the $2 roadside field tests that Wester and countless other police officers around the country use to establish probable cause to arrest someone for drug possession are unreliable and easy to misinterpret:

There are no established error rates for the field tests, in part because their accuracy varies so widely depending on who is using them and how. Data from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement lab system show that 21 percent of evidence that the police listed as methamphetamine after identifying it was not methamphetamine, and half of those false positives were not any kind of illegal drug at all. In one notable Florida episode, Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies produced 15 false positives for methamphetamine in the first seven months of 2014. When we examined the department's records, they showed that officers, faced with somewhat ambiguous directions on the pouches, had simply misunderstood which colors indicated a positive result.

Such tests are not admissible evidence in court in most jurisdictions in the U.S. Instead, samples are sent to state forensic labs for verification.

Many of Wester's victims had prior criminal records for things like drug possession. They were, in other words, easy targets. No one would believe their word against a police officer's. If Wester hadn't been wearing a body cam, and if he hadn't been sloppy enough to film his amateur sleight-of-hand attempts and lies, all of their charges would likely stand, and he would still be patrolling the streets.

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97 responses to “Watch a Florida Cop Botch a Drug Field Test on Video, Then Arrest an Innocent Man

  1. “hey were, in other words, easy targets. No one would believe their word against a police officer’s.”

    No one should ever believe a cop’s word for anything without corroborating evidence not under the officer’s control.

    1. One tablespoon of narcissism

      Two tablespoons of sadomasochism

      Third cup of dishonesty and deceit

      Half cup of totalitarianism

      One cup of bully

      Two cups of amorality

      One quart of cowardice

      And there?.is your perfect recruit for American copping.

  2. The point is, you may beat the rap, but you’re not beating the ride. And cops… they’re all about the ride. The fact that you got off six months later at trial, not their problem.

  3. The stupid cop can’t even plant drugs right!

  4. Meh. Darkie waa guilty of something.

    1. You should learn how to type, whiny bitch.

      1. Sorry, “darky” is that better?

      2. No actually, he should learn how to spell, whiny bitch.

        1. The two of you are missing a much larger problem.

          1. That this site is infested with trolls and socks and probably only has four people posting serious comments?

              1. Are you still up here whining because you lost your toy?

                1. Oh, also, I got a new toy because some stupid asshole is bad at thinking.

                  1. That’s pretty funny that you think you won something. I guess that’s not unexpected of the retarded.

                    1. Of course I won. It’s why you’re still crying about it bitch.

                      It’s eating you alive.

            1. “…this site is infested with trolls and socks…”

              Said the most useless of ALL of the trolls!!!!

    2. Actually Sparky, when I read that I hear it in Uncle Ruckus’ voice.

  5. The deputy knew that the field tests were demonstrably unreliable and corrected for the possibility that it was a false negative.

    Judgment: BACK PAY

    Next case.

  6. If Wester hadn’t been wearing a body cam, and if he hadn’t of been sloppy enough to film his amateur sleight-of-hand attempts and lies, all of their charges would likely stand, and he would still be patrolling the streets.

    Has he lost his LEO certification this time around? He apparently didn’t last time. The guy filmed himself planting drugs, got fired and he wound up still patrolling the streets. What makes you think he was “sloppy” versus he realized nobody really gives a shit if he’s a dirty cop?

    1. Also, “hadn’t of been”?? Ugh.

      1. If Wester hadn’t been wearing a body cam, and if he hadn’t of been sloppy enough to film his amateur sleight-of-hand attempts and lies, all of their charges would likely stand,

        Lesson learned! – average cop

    2. That’s what I was thinking – how can you plant drugs and still be a cop? Evil.

    3. Cops should have to carry liability insurances, and a surety bond. Then when they get the department sued, their insurance factors in and the bad ones that get caught rapidly become unemployable.

      1. I meant to,say errors and omissions insurance. Not liability insurance. Not exactly the same thing.

  7. Cops need to be held liable for their performance. I hoped he gets sued into homelessness and dies in lonely, drunken despair.

    1. If it is more than a hundred cases that are going to be dropped, we are out of the poor performance “bad cop, no donut” category, and into the conspiracy to commit catagory.

      If it’s true, I hope he does time. At a minimum.

  8. Don’t want to be treated like a thug, don’t have the cops plant drugs on you and falsify tests like a thug.

  9. I wonder when the cop suckers will show up to tell us how Noble all practicioners of the profession are.

  10. So I’m looking for some help guys. I know I mentioned that I was going to go back to college because I dropped out and I was stuck in a dead end job, but I’ve had to rethink that because my wife has left me. She has been cheating for a while with my boss, and now my marriage is over and my job probably is too. She says she waited long enough for me to stop messing around and make something of myself. I still want to go back to college, because I need the education and I know it, but I’m thinking I should just let my wife go and try to find a better job before mine implodes. Oh and she’s marrying my boss and my daughter already calls him “daddy” after less than a month. My wife says it’s because he spoils her woth things I won’t ever be able to afford.

    I kind of want to kill myself. But I don’t think anyone would care or notice.

    1. We wouldn’t notice. You left and no one cared. Man up already.

    2. We wouldn’t notice. You left and no one cared. Man up already.

    3. Sparky, I don’t know you from Adam, but I hope this is not a serious post. Suicide isn’t the answer. I don’t know you enough to provide life advice, but skilled trades have TONS of jobs and opportunities, don’t cost anywhere near what college does, and in my experience, provide a sense of self-worth that no amount of degrees will provide unless one finds meaningful work. Welding, carpentry, being an electrician, masonry, even just busting rocks – there’s a nobility there that has been (unfortunately) denigrated by our society.

      And regardless of what you post, what your wife does, or what your daughter chirps (they’re like little birds when they’re young), you’re worthy of love, Sparky, especially from yourself. Be well.

        1. New people are just the worst.

        2. Sparky on the off chance you’re not full of shit, I have one piece of advice for you. Man up and think about what is best for your daughter and do that. Unless you’re secretly beating or fucking her, killing yourself is not the best thing for her. Given the likely divorce she would likely blame herself. Don’t put that shit on your kid.

          When you wake up tomorrow, you will probably notice a few things. First, barring a supernova, the sun will still rise, and everything else will still go on whether you feel miserable or not. So focus on doing something productive, even if it’s just one or two things out of a who,e mess. When you get that done, then move onto another thing.

          If you keep doing that, eventually things start to sort themselves out. I would also consider getting some leverage over your boss for fuckjg your wife. If it were me I would probably give him a savage beating at a minimum.

      1. And thanks, but you’re wrong. I’m a total piece of shit.

      2. Second the recommendation against college (I have a Master’s degree btw) unless you have a field you’re really passionate about — trades are where it’s at these days.

        Also, think about moving away from the toxic sludge your life’s become. A change of states can make all the difference.

        1. And for fuck’s sake, get away from this website.

          1. ^2nd

            Whether your goal is education, learning a trade, connecting with your daughter, or just plain feeling better about yourself, posting on these forums doesn’t achieve those aims.

            If you plan on blackmailing your boss for fucking your wife and getting the money to go back and get your education from your employer, we’ll certainly entertain the notions, but our recommendations probably shouldn’t be taken seriously.

            1. Yeah, I definitely took a big break from Reason when I was in the depths of everything. (I know, no one noticed.) Suing the boss for being a fuckstain might not be a terrible idea, though.

              1. (I know, no one noticed.)

                If I came to the internet to probe everyone’s personal business I’d be on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest…

                Also, with a/this forum, it’s sometimes hard to tell who got banned, who rage quit, who found a better libertarian sight, who went back to lurking, who’s working on a political campaign and/or doing people’s taxes, who was issued a gag order by an AG, who had a kid, and who got hit by a bus.

                You aren’t under a court order or were hit by a bus! Yay!

      3. No, suicide is the answer for all kinds of people. Not necessarily Sparky, but certainly Hihn, the Rev. Arty, Tony, amd a few other horrific progtard sociopaths around here.

    4. Sparky, if this is serious, I think you should start over with maybe some training in a trade. And you might be lucky to get away from such horrible people like your boss and wife. In time you’ll see the whole thing differently.

    5. You can look up Bureau of Labor statistics and get a forecast of in demand careers for the next ten years (I mean hey, you paid for it) and maybe find something where you can afford the schooling and at a minimum doesn’t strike you as repugnant. Something not easily offshorable is a plus.

      If you are sure your relationship is completely unsalvagable, it might be wise to start divorce proceedings now, where the courts won’t make onerous demands of you. Know for a fact you won’t get through the process unscathed.

      And walk away. Cut yourself some slack for possibly making some bad choices, and walk away.

      Once you get use being in your own skin, there is a profound sense of freedom in being anonymous. You can do what you like without the approval or notice of anyone but yourself.

      Try and make a better go of it this time around.

    6. Watch Better Off Dead a few times – and move across the street from a hot exchange student. I love my wife with all of my heart, but if she left I’d be bummed about it for about a week.

      1. It’s a damn shame when folks be throwin’ away a perfectly good white boy…

    7. She must not have been a great wife or else you’d have made something of yourself to keep her. Isn’t that the whole purpose of men getting married to have some reason to not sit on the couch drink beer and play video games all day?

      1. Man, I hope the guys who are being assholes here are really seriously convinced that this is a prank or a troll, because that’s a shitty thing to say to a suicidal person.

        1. Like, I would say the same thing I said to Sparky to Kirkland or even Hihn if they came here and said they were serious about offing themselves. And I think those guys are jerks.

    8. Sympathy, man. I was there. My wife left me about 3.5 years ago, and between that and a number of other factors, I was in full on “I am going to kill myself” mode at the beginning of August. I was 2 days away from my planned date of departure when… well, let’s say that my plans were exposed, and my friends rallied the troops and managed to not do anything epically stupid like getting the cops or other authorities involved, and convinced me to hold off for a while.

      I’ve started doing ketamine infusion therapy and it has really done amazing things for my severe depression. 1mg/kg over 45 minutes, twice in 1 week, basically rebooted my brain and held me solid for about 2 months. I waited 3 for my next session, but the ratchet is actually going up for now. I feel better now than I did after the first treatment, even though I was down below the “peak” I had right after treatment #1.

      If depression is your issue, it might be worth looking into.

      And damn, that’s a shitty story. Your ex is kind of a bitch, yo.

      1. I also second the idea of going into a trade and not to college. I have a college degree and worked in a degreed field for 20 years, and mostly hated the fuck out of it. I’m going to school to be a truck driver now (56,000 fewer drivers than needed, according to my instructor) and hopefully that will be better for me. I’ll get to see lots of the country, at least.

        1. I second the truck driver suggestion, it’s a great career for someone looking for a change. Not too expensive either. Snag your CDL and head for Texas. You’ll be making 100k in no time.

          1. See Sylvester Stallone in “Over the Top” for inspiration. How old are you, by the way?

            Truck driver is a big money career for the investment and would seem to fit your place in life right now pretty well. Second the idea of moving out of state to make the jump.

            What you need right now is some new long term goals since your old ones went down the shitter. They will give your life some meaning and give you something to live for.

            1. Also, FWIW, doing this at the local community college for $1300 in 12 weeks. So, not nearly as expensive as a “real” degree.

    9. It’s a godsend that it happened now while you’re young. It’s a new day for you.
      Your daughter may be estranged till she can think for herself, but she’ll come around.
      You’re lucky, what happens next is up to you.

      1. If you do decide on a trade, consider taking some community college business, law, and accounting classes as well. If you save your money, you could start your own company 10 years down the line. That’s where the real money is.

    10. Man up. Whining on the comment section of a minor news website is pussy territory.

    11. Hey Sparky, read your post and – despite being a complete stranger – wanted to encourage you to hang in there. Sounds like your wife did you wrong and I hate that for you. I’m sure it especially hurts having a kid involved. But you need to realize you’re not responsible for your wife’s shitty actions no matter if she tries to justify it or blame you. Sure, you probably made mistakes and have regrets, but don’t think you’re a failure because of your spouse and broken marriage. Learn from this, see where you can improve and move on.

      The best advice I can give (if you’re looking for any) is to focus on you. Focus what you can control. Focus on who you want to be and where you want to go. Don’t think that you can change her or that if external events xy&z occur then everything will be fixed; again, take responsibility for you and you alone and put your energy and thoughts into working on you. Best of luck to you, sir.

  11. State prosecutors have dropped criminal charges in more than 100 cases involving Wester after body cam footage released last September showed the officer allegedly planting drugs in a car during another traffic stop. A Florida judge also vacated the sentences of eight people whose convictions were based on evidence and testimony by Wester. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement launched an investigation into Wester, and several people have filed federal lawsuits against him.

    Fuck that noise! ICE detained someone for 3 days while they confirmed his identity after he set a hospital on fire two months ago!

  12. Maybe the poor LEO is red/blue colorblind. Be you libertarian shitlords didn’t consider that, eh???

    1. It was actually the first thing that came to mind.

      One of the first commercial products I helped bring to market as a lab tech was a color-based chemistry test and when we initially started to expand the platform, the first chemist we hired was colorblind and we, of course, didn’t find out until after we hired him and put him on the project.

      However, having worked with the guy who was colorblind to our test, there’s no excuse for the fuckery the officer in question pulled. Still, it did occur to me that he might be colorblind.

    2. Also, red/green colorblind.

      1. Maybe just totally blind.

    3. Then he shouldn’t have performed the test.

      Did you notice how is partner wanted no part of any of his arrest.

      Imagine being the partner of such a stupid and corrupt person. The peer pressure to support the soldier at your side.

  13. Ye gods. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

  14. Just imagine how helpless, frustrated, and terrified YOU would be if it were YOU on the side of the highway being arrested for a crime you KNOW you did NOT commit.

    I’d be afraid for my life, because if they could make ONE huge mistake, they could easily make MORE and I could end up dead or in prison for 25 years before I’m finally exonerated.

    It’s rare, but it clearly isn’t outside the realm of possibility. And the rarity of mistakes is irrelevant to the victims of it.

    1. It is not rare enough not to be a legitimate worry when stopped by a cop in ANY state.

  15. My brain kept changing his name to “Wesker.” Who was also a total asshole, so it works.

  16. If we ‘have’ to register constitutionally protected guns, why don’t we register bad cops?

  17. This FORMER cop should go to jail for 20 years.

    Why didn’t the LEO community force this guy into mall work? This isn’t simple mistakes. This POS makes the entire profession look bad.

  18. Either we should not have cops, or we need a super-cop corps to police the regular cops. And then ultra-cops to watch the super-cops. And…

    1. Quis custodiet, indeed.

  19. And this POS sleeps well at night, how?

    I had a guy tell me that I needed to educate myself for daring to suggest that the FF’s would be ashemed for putting up the king’s police.

    How can you presume to know what the Founders would or wouldn’t approve of?

    I said yep, I need an education, alright.

  20. Aren’t you glad the cop was recording his memories.

    If you had the voluntary right to record yours wherever you are, they would be your defence.

    As people are brought to justice from the recording of memories, all social behaviour will begin to shift towards honesty.

    Imagine that, a society free from corruption.

    Only stupid and corrupt people, like that cop, oppose the right to record our memories.

    1. Imagine that, a society free from corruption.

      I’ve seen this movie before.

      1. What would you do without movies?

  21. The body cameras are a great step forward. This bad cop can get fired/prosecuted. The false accusations against cops can be ended. The vast majority of good cops should be on board, it protects them and the people, exactly what a good police force should do.

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  23. Field tests should be outlawed at the federal level. It should be by design, difficult to arrest people outside of putting self or others in immediate and eminent danger.

  24. So they’ve filed charges against this asshole, I’m sure.

  25. If he’d been fired, how did he get his current job?

  26. This sick corrupt fuck gets off on watching people squirm. This is some sadistic shit.

    Why the hell was he even searching the car on a traffic stop?

  27. Only real question for me is: why isn’t Wester in prison? He only gets fired and that’s ALL?! He messed up a lot of peoples lives, cost them money, loss of jobs, property, and all he gets is a Termination?! The “system” is seriously broken!

    1. If the people in the meeting who decided termination vs incarceration, we’re caught on a body camera, they probably would have decided differently.

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  29. More proof that Cops are retarded and deserve it when they are shot in their fucking faces

  30. This was a bad cop and he was fired, regardless of how many months it took to finalize it. That is a good thing. Why are there so many unReasonable comments here? I obviously misunderstood the kind of discussions generated.

    1. I think I got it wrong if he still has his job. The rest i got right.

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