Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Field test drug kits: Radley Balko provide's a partial list of "things" that field testing drug kits mistakenly identified as contraband: Spoiler: The list includes "Dr. Bronner's magic soap", "tortilla dough" and "deodorant"! Click on the link below for the rest. (And check your deodorant before you go out tonight. HL)

(Radley Balko blogs about criminal justice, the drug war and civil liberties for The Washington Post. He is the author of the book "Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces.")

"Last week, my Post colleague Abby Phillip wrote about Joseph Ray Burrell, a Minnesota man who spent more than two months in jail because a police drug field test incorrectly identified a bag of vitamins in his car as amphetamines. It isn’t the first time one of these field tests has caused a wrongful arrest. Or the second. Or the third. In fact, I’ve been compiling a running list of all the materials that one or more of these field tests has mistaken for drugs..........Why, it’s almost as if these field tests will say whatever law enforcement officers want them to.........Six years ago, the Marijuana Policy Project put out a study to demonstrate the high error rate in these tests and to draw attention to the fact that false positives can lead to wrongful arrests. It didn’t seem to do much good."  Click on the link below for  the partial  list:

The entire post can be found at:


See  related Marshall Project post on "Jolly ranchers, sage and breath mints:  A closer look at a favourite" (and unreliable) law-enforcement tool: drug field tests."  "When a Tampa motorist was searched by a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s patrol last July, deputies found a wad of brown goo in his wallet. Police popped the substance into a bag - a field drug test called a NARK II, used by law enforcement across the country -- gave it a shake, and watched it turn purple, indicating a positive result for methamphetamine.  The motorist, a military officer, said later it was Jamaican Stone, an herbal “male-enhancement” product, but by then he had been arrested and booked in jail. He bonded himself out, and eventually the state’s crime lab found the substance negative for meth. Prosecutors dropped the charges. (His lawyer declined to give his name. His case was first reported by Gloria Gomez for the Tampa Fox TV affiliate.) It was hardly the first time a field test yielded a false positive — and a wrongful arrest. Sage has been mistaken for marijuana; motor oil for heroin; jolly ranchers for meth; and breath mints for crack. In February, a Minnesota man spent months in jail after his vitamin powder tested positive for amphetamines. Soon after the arrest in Tampa, a Hillsborough police lieutenant conducted his own experiment on the NARK II tests, which cost between $15 and $20 for a box of ten. He found that just opening the test bag to the air produced the same shade of purple as exposure to methamphetamine, according to an internal memo. In February, the Hillsborough sheriff’s department announced it had switched to a different field test, made by the same company, which tests for a wider variety of illegal drugs. A spokeswoman for the sheriff’s department declined interview requests.



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