Friday, November 25, 2016

Kafka Lives In Roadside Drug Testing Kits

These two people were held in an Arkansas jail for
two months because authorities thought baking soda
found in their truck was cocaine, and didn't bother
to properly test it to prove their suspicions. 
A couple from Utah learned the hard way that in today's America, if you have a baggie full of baking soda in your truck and the cops decide it's cocaine, then it's cocaine and you're in a heap of trouble.

Talk about living in a post-fact world!  

According to KUTV in Salt Lake City, Gail Griffin and her husband Wendell Harvey are truck drivers who haul explosives for the military.

At least they did until the fine law enforcement officials in Arkansas went into stubborn batshit crazy mode over a couple bags of baking soda Harvey had in the truc.

As KUTV describes it: "They have top security clearance, and they've never been in trouble with the law. So in May, while driving through Arkansas, they weren't concerned when police stopped them in Fort Chaffee."

They should have been concerned, it turns out.

Police found the three baggies full of baking soda. The cops used a roadside drug testing kit to see what was in the baggies. The widely used drug testing kit is known to be wildly inaccurate, coming up with zillions of false positives, but it's used by lots of cop shops anyway.

The road side drug testing kit decided that the baking soda was $3,000 worth of cocaine, so police locked the couple up.

For two and a half months if you can believe that, because nobody in Arkansas would do a more accurate follow up test to see if the baking soda was really cocaine and not, you know, baking soda.

Only after lots of pleading from the Arkansas Public Defender's office that the stuff was tested. According to television station KATV in Little Rock, Arkansas, the couple didn't have phone numbers memorized and so were not able to call relatives for help getting an attorney.

No easy phone access was provided. Prosecutors dragged their feet getting the substance authorities found in the truck tested correctly. And you guessed it, the powdery stuff in the baggies was baking soda.

By the way, the truck drivers arrested were African-American. This being Arkansas, there is the possibility of racism, though I know I can't prove that here

The Fort Chaffee Police Department is basically shrugging its shoulders at locking an innocent couple up for more than two months and quite possibly destroying their livlihoods.

Fort Chaffee Police say they tested three times using the faulty device and it came up cocaine three times. Good enough for them.

Sure, hold the couple until you get a more sophisticated test, but why did authorities wait two months to do it, and only when prodded?

A reporter for KUTV got his hands on one of these road side test kits and received instruction on how to use it. He tested common household items like Comet cleanser, aspirin, cold medicine and chocolate. Four of the ten tests he did came up (false) positive for illicit drugs.

Now that's a REALLY inaccurate testing device!

Even if Arkansas authorities were trying to demonstrate how "tough" they were on drug criminals, they wasted a lot of Arkansans' tax money on incarcerating the pair.

Says KUTV: 

"As for Harvey and Griffin, they only recently got their truck back from Arkansas authorities. But they say the truck has major damage that requires repairs. 

The couple also said they have not worked since they were released from jail. They said they are still trying to get their security clearance reinstated, and that they are running out of money.

Harvey said what is expecially concerning to him and his wife is the fact that other people may have been victimized by the test."

Or by Arkansas and perhaps other states. As I said, I can certainly see holding a suspect for a day or two until it's determined whether the stuff they had was drugs.

Shouldn't Arkansas authorities compensate Harvey and Griffin, since they were punished severely for not doing anything wrong?

I'm not holding my breath on that one.

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