The War on Drugs is a war on liberty

Mike first pointed this out to me in a recent comment.  I’m really glad to see this is getting wider coverage now.  The fact that stuff like this happens in America is truly beyond words.  Andrew Sullivan’s summary:

After being pulled over for not making a complete stop at a stop sign, David Eckert was suspected of hiding drugs because a police dog alerted and because Eckert was allegedly clenching his buttocks. What happened next:

1. Eckert’s abdominal area was x-rayed; no narcotics were found.

2. Doctors then performed an exam of Eckert’s anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.

3. Doctors performed a second exam of Eckert’s anus with their fingers; no narcotics were found.

4. Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema.  Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers.  Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool.  No narcotics were found.

5. Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema a second time.  Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers.  Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool.  No narcotics were found.

6. Doctors penetrated Eckert’s anus to insert an enema a third time.  Eckert was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers.  Eckert watched as doctors searched his stool.  No narcotics were found.

7. Doctors then x-rayed Eckert again; no narcotics were found.

8. Doctors prepared Eckert for surgery, sedated him, and then performed a colonoscopy where a scope with a camera was inserted into Eckert’s anus, rectum, colon, and large intestines.  No narcotics were found.

The police dog, Leo, had made this same mistake before. Jacob Sullum notes that, “if police say a dog is properly trained, they can get a search warrant based on nothing more than the animal’s purported alert, and that search will be upheld unless a defendant can present evidence showing the dog is unreliable”:

Hence if it turns out that Leo’s alerts frequently lead to fruitless searches, that does not necessarily mean he will be deemed unreliable, even if he is wrong more often than he is right (which is often the case with drug-detecting dogs). According to police (and the Supreme Court, which essentially has adopted their point of view), dogs that seem to be making mistakes may actually be alerting to traces of drugs so minute that their existence cannot be confirmed. Hence you can never definitively say that a police dog erred, even though there are many possible sources of error, including distracting smells and conscious or subconscious cues by handlers. Not to mention the fact that cops who want to search someone can always falsely claim a dog alerted. The upshot is that if a cop wants to explore a motorist’s anus, stomach, intestines, and feces, all he needs is a dog and a judge who takes to heart the Supreme Court’s unjustified faith in canine capabilities.

Oh yeah, and they sent the victim the hospital bill for this stuff.

Sure, this may be one “rogue” police department.  But as Sullivan points out, it is allowed to happen because of incredibly loose interpretations of probable cause that basically give police absurd rights to violate your person.  This should not should not should not happen in America.  The fact that stuff like this does all in the name of the “war on drugs” is a travesty and should absolutely shame every drug warrior.  Until our country starts to demilitarize the war on drugs and takes saner policy steps, this kind of needless and atrocious abuse (though hopefully rarely this extreme) of American citizens will continue.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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