Cops like cheap drug tests in the field. You don’t like them because they are accurate. You like them because they’re cheap. And since you get what you pay for, they’re a lot cheaper (in the long run) than sending for a drug dog.
Field drug tests are likely cause at $ 2 a pop. They are even more unreliable than drug dogs when it comes to properly identifying drugs. Because of this, some prosecutors – nominally law enforcement’s best friends – refuse to accept pleadings for drug charges that stem solely from field drug testing.
Field drug tests have shown donut crumbs, cotton candy, and honey are methamphetamines. You said bird droppings on the hood of a car (!!) and swamp standard aspirin are cocaine. What a police officer imagines as drugs can usually be “confirmed” by the test kits that are carried along. Once the vial says it is drugs, police officers can search, seize and arrest.
Cops don’t have to be so wrong when it comes to drugs. But there is no penalty for being so wrong. So it goes on. Prosecutors may have to drop some cases if the drug lab says the drugs they claim aren’t real drugs, but plea deals usually come about before the labs test the evidence. And if the evidence even gets to a laboratory. Cops aren’t the best at handling paperwork, which comes in handy when their word goes against yours. Even if a police officer is sued for turning non-contraband into contraband and drug charges, he is usually compensated or given qualified immunity by the city he works for for relying on what he believes to be is actually scientific.
And because no one seems too keen to end addiction to unreliable drug testing, this is the kind of travesty we expect.
Newschannel 20 and FOX Illinois received a new body camera video of the incident which prompted Dartavius Barnes to sue the City of Springfield.
In the lawsuit, Barnes alleges his vehicle was illegally searched on April 6, 2020 when it was stopped near Laurel and 16th Street in Springfield.
He says the officers handcuffed him while searching his vehicle without consent, valid warrant or probable reason.
During the search, Barnes says, officers took a sealed urn containing his daughter’s ashes, unsealed it, opened it without consent, and spilled the ashes.
If you think this is terrible, just wait for the back story. Barnes’ daughter Ta’Naja Jones was only two years old when she died. And she could have been killed. The girl’s mother and her current boyfriend were both arrested for murder.
The ultimate insult to Ta’Naja Jones and her father happened here. Ta’Naja Jones’ final resting place was not in the urn Barnes kept in his car. It was a field drug test that officials performed because they just couldn’t believe it could be the last remains of a loved one.
According to law enforcement’s favorite faulty testing equipment, Ta’Naja Jones’s ashes may have been ecstasy. And that conclusion was drawn after the ashes failed to test positive for cocaine.
An officer presented a narcotic test kit to the officer whose body camera was rolling.
“I was looking for cocaine but it looks like it’s Molly,” said the officer.
“X pills,” added the other, quoting the street name for ecstasy.
In the end, the police decided that the ashes were a combination of meth and ecstasy, which is how drug users carry their drugs: all together in a single container. What the hell.
Field drug tests allow police to work backwards from their conclusions. If it doesn’t test positive for one drug, it’s likely another drug. And if nothing tests positive, it can still be drugs, because sometimes drugs are carried in containers. “Based on training and experience” and all that shit. The stuff that says criminals sometimes act like regular non-criminals. And if criminals regularly behave like non-criminals, then every non-criminal is guilty until proven otherwise.
Barnes has sued [PDF]. It’s a short lawsuit and it looks like it will be an uphill battle to win. Barnes admitted having marijuana in the car and apparently agreed to a search. The end result was this terrible injury to his daughter’s remains, but up to that point everything was “reasonable” enough (using the judicial definition of that word rather than the definition of citizens) that it will be difficult to prove that the officials are the constitution exceeded limits.
The problem here is the on-site drug tests and the officials who believe they can actually use them to identify drugs. They were “reasonable” to rely on the drug test results because anyone who benefited from the use of flawed tests told them the tests were reliable even when they obviously weren’t. When a child’s ashes are not one but two different illegal substances, anything can be anything if a cop wants it.
Man sued after field drug test says his daughter’s ashes are meth and ecstasy
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