The Police Dog Who Cried Drugs at Every Traffic Stop

Don’t blame Karma. The police dog simply followed his training when he helped local agencies impound vehicles that sometimes belonged to innocent motorists in Republic, Washington, an old mining town near the Canadian border.

As a drug detection dog, Karma kept his nose down and treated every suspect the same. Public records show that from the time he arrived in Republic in January 2018 until his handler took a leave of absence to campaign for public office in 2020, Karma gave an “alert” indicating the presence of drugs 100 percent of the time during roadside sniffs outside vehicles.

Whether drivers actually possessed illegal narcotics made no difference. The government gained access to every vehicle that Karma ever sniffed. He essentially created automatic probable cause for searches and seizures, undercutting constitutional guarantees of due process.

Similar patterns abound nationwide, suggesting that Karma’s career was not unusual. Lex, a drug detection dog in Illinois, alerted for narcotics 93 percent of the time during roadside sniffs, but was wrong in more than 40 percent of cases. Sella, a drug detection dog in Florida, gave false alerts 53 percent of the time. Bono, a drug detection dog in Virginia, incorrectly indicated the presence of drugs 74 percent of the time.

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Utah senator says people should ‘stay home’ if they don’t want police dogs to bite them

State lawmakers are looking at codifying best practices for police dog teams after a Salt Lake City audit uncovered a pattern of abuse in the way its law enforcement agency has been using canines to catch suspects.

A legislative committee voted unanimously Tuesday to explore a bill on the issue, although one state senator made clear he has little patience for complaints about police dogs.

“I don’t have a lot of sympathy,” Sen. Don Ipson told his colleagues on the law enforcement and criminal justice committee. “We don’t want to harm the public. But if they don’t want to get bit, stay home.”

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