Sage, chocolate chip cookies, deoderant, billiards chalk, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap, patchouli, spearmint, eucalyptus, breath mints . . .Monday, August 15th, 2011
In April, Janet Goodin of Warroad, Minn., was crossing into Canada for an evening of bingo with her daughters when an officer with the Canadian Border Service conducted a routine search of her van. The officer found an old bottle of motor oil, did a field test and told her that it contained heroin.
“I can’t even describe the feeling of amazement,” Goodin, 66, said in an interview. “I said, ‘That’s not possible, it’s leftover oil.'”
The bottle was re-tested, and agents said it again revealed the presence of heroin. Goodin was arrested, handcuffed and taken to jail, where she was strip-searched. The motor oil was sent to a Canadian federal laboratory, which eventually determined there was no heroin in it. After 12 days behind bars, Goodin was released.
Goodin’s case has been seized upon by critics who question the reliability of field drug-test kits, which are used widely by law enforcement.
“She is what you call collateral damage in the drug war,” said former FBI special agent Frederic Whitehurst, a North Carolina attorney and forensic consultant with a Ph.D. in analytic chemistry, who has publicly raised concerns about field drug-test kits. “When you run the tests, you run into all sorts of problems from overzealous cops.” . . .
The Border Service won’t explain how they made the mistake. But Sgt. Line Karpish of the RCMP said her agency used “reasonable grounds” based on information it got from the Canadian Border Service. She noted that drugs are smuggled into Canada by all types of people. “We find it in diapers, we find it on old ladies, young ladies, beautiful ladies,” Karpish says. “You can’t let ‘grandma’ cloud your judgment about the police force. That’s why terrorists use kids.”
No, but you might start to question the veracity of field test kits that continue to produce absurd false positives. Links to the prior field test horror stories in the headline here.