Probably … Not

By S.D. Plissken | May 10, 2018

Milton Police Chief Krauss asked the Board of Selectmen (BOS) to accept a “free” police dog at the BOS Meeting of Monday, January 8, 2018. Controlled K9, LLC, was “seeking an organization” to which to donate a 3-year-old Dutch Shepard K9. The dog had received minimal training, thus far, and there would be a need for further training going forward, including drug activity training. (The chief had already had the dog evaluated by experts as having “trainability”).

It has long been known that drug dogs are not reliable. While they do have keen senses, they are more interested in pleasing their handlers than in the task. That causes accuracy rates of less than half (i.e., less accurate that the flip of a coin) or even less. Bomb- and mine-sniffing dogs are much more accurate. Their handlers do not have the same biases and incentives towards arrest quotas and asset forfeitures: they want mostly to live.

But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that a dog’s actual accuracy does not matter as much as its certification (Florida vs. Harris). For that reason, drug dogs are often described as “probable cause generators.” They are a court-sanctioned way to reliably manufacture probable cause where none actually exists.

Chairman Rawson remarked that it would be “Wonderful. A great asset for the Town of Milton.” Selectman Long asked where the dog would be housed and Chief Krauss replied that the dog would be kept at his residence. Not mentioned, or apparently even considered, were any costs for evaluations, additional training, certification, veterinary expenses, or upkeep. Without further ado, Selectman Thibeault moved to accept the K9 donation, Selectman Long seconded the motion, and it passed unanimously. None of them expressed any constitutional concerns.

A month later, the Rochester Voice reported (on Friday morning, February 9, 2018) that Nute High School Principal Jan Radowicz had that day said that “Milton and State Police conducted a drug sweep through Nute High and Middle School today, but found no drugs.” No warrant or probable cause was mentioned. The students were confined to their classrooms while the dogs “swept” the hallways and classrooms. Principal Radowicz mentioned that the school would continue to work with the police. Her constitutional concerns, if any, were not reported.

Chief Krauss returned to the Board of Selectmen on Monday, March 5, 2018, to report that, despite “continual training,” the donated dog just lacked the “drives” to continue training. The BOS voted to contact the donor to see if they will be willing to take the dog back under their care.

Chief Krauss did not mention any plans or intention of replacing the dog with one that had more “drives.”

References:

Balko, Radley, Washington Post. (2015, August 4). Federal appeals court: Drug dog that’s barely more accurate than a coin flip is good enough. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2015/08/04/federal-appeals-court-drug-dog-thats-barely-more-accurate-than-a-coin-flip-is-good-enough/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.a4ad19ec7063

Hinckel, Dan, and Mahr, Joe, Chicago Tribune. (2011, January 6). Tribune analysis: Drug-sniffing dogs in traffic stops often wrong. Retrieved from http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-01-06/news/ct-met-canine-officers-20110105_1_drug-sniffing-dogs-alex-rothacker-drug-dog

Long, Rebecca, 60 Minutes. (2004, January 5). Does The Nose Know? Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/does-the-nose-know/

Rochester Voice. (2018, January 9). Police, drug-sniffing dogs sweep Nute Middle High. Retrieved from http://www.therochestervoice.com/police-drug-sniffing-dogs-sweep-nute-middle-high-cms-9475

Town of Milton (2018, January). Milton Board of Selectmen Meeting Minutes, January 8, 2018. Retrieved from http://www.miltonnh-us.com/uploads/bos_agendas_770_2631624852.pdf. (There is also a video of the brief dog discussion and acceptance on Youtube at https://youtu.be/jDlhSg8plKo?t=1601).

Town of Milton (2018, March 5). Milton Board of Selectmen Meeting Minutes, March 5, 2018. Retrieved from http://www.miltonnh-us.com/uploads/bos_agendas_794_1363558446.pdf. (There is also a video of the brief dog rejection on YouTube at https://youtu.be/F6wbcKpHQSk?t=6642

Author: S.D. Plissken

I thought he'd be taller.

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