Sage, chocolate chip cookies, deoderant, billiards chalk, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap, patchouli, spearmint, eucalyptus, breath mints . . .

Monday, August 15th, 2011

 . . . and now, motor oil.

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.

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31 Responses to “Sage, chocolate chip cookies, deoderant, billiards chalk, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap, patchouli, spearmint, eucalyptus, breath mints . . .”

  1. #1 |  paranoiastrksdp | 

    Radley:

    This is a feature of field tests, not a bug. Don’t expect reform any time soon. A few unjustly incarcerated individuals is a small price to pay to give the pigs license to fuck with anyone they want.

  2. #2 |  Bren | 

    I’d like to say Mounties are the quicker, thicker picker upers, but our drug cops are probably more reckless and stupid in making arrests.

  3. #3 |  Claudio | 

    I’m reminded of the joke about the [blonde, polish person, etc] who goes to the doctor and says it hurts when they touch anywhere. The doctor diagnoses a broken finger.

    Maybe they’re finding heroin everywhere because they themselves are contaminated?

  4. #4 |  Mattocracy | 

    How exactly did the RCMP think she was going to use this heroine laced motor oil? Can one even extract heroine from any petroleum product?

  5. #5 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    What does Sgt. Line Karpish look like and where can I get one of these faulty test kits? I hope she’s OK that my hands are like hams.

  6. #6 |  Jay | 

    Seems to me that if field tests are this bogus, then a positive result can never constitute probable cause for a further search. So if you’re on a jury, you’re obligated by the exclusionary rule to ignore any evidence obtained after a positive field test.

  7. #7 |  John Jenkins | 

    The standard field test for cocaine base will return positive 100% of the time when testing baking soda (it turns blue). I’ll leave it to the chemistry-inclined to figure out why (and what reagent they’re using to do it).

  8. #8 |  paranoiastrksdp | 

    Mattocracy, you could, heroin being water soluble. Simply introduce an aqueous solvent, agitate for a few hours, then extract off the aqueous layer. If course, if there actually WAS heroin in the bottle, the officers would have been able to see the crystals of the stuff upon pouring some out. This would have taken too much common sense though.

  9. #9 |  paranoiastrksdp | 

    John Jenkins, I think you are thinking of Scott reagent.

  10. #10 |  Highway | 

    “She is what you call collateral damage in the drug war,” said former FBI special agent Frederic Whitehurst

    No, she is what you call a victim of the drug war. Part of the reason that these things keep getting swept under the rug is the dehumanization of all people who are swept up in drug hysteria. No doubt there are plenty of people on badgelicking sites saying things like “Well, she had to be guilty of something, or the police wouldn’t have been searching her car” or “Charges were dropped so everything’s fine, the system worked”.

  11. #11 |  Matt | 

    The first time I went up to Canada was the Peace Bridge crossing in Niagara. I was in college with some friends and headed up to a beach house owned by one of their parents. When we got to the border we were unceremoniously ordered to the side so that they could search the car. There was no option to refuse and no option for debate. Just “get the fuck off the side and watch while we tear the car apart”. Other experiences have been more positive, but its still not a trip I’d make unless I had good reason.

  12. #12 |  Michael | 

    People do not deserve the authority to police us if they choose to sacrifice our rights instead of doing their own research.

  13. #13 |  a_random_guy | 

    Did they they compensate her for lost time and emotional distress?

    /sarcasm

  14. #14 |  JS | 

    So the poice state drug war mentality has spread north of the border too huh?

  15. #15 |  paranoiastrksdp | 

    JS, the putrescence of the drug war has spread through the entire world. Most countries model their drug policies after ours.

  16. #16 |  Stephen | 

    I wonder if donuts would test positive?

  17. #17 |  paranoiastrksdp | 

    I think sugar tests black with Marquis, so yeah, they’d probably be “ecstasy laced donuts” in the mind of the drug warrior.

  18. #18 |  JS | 

    paranoiastrksdp, that is sad but as I suspected, American cops are a horrible and corrupting example to the rest of the world.

  19. #19 |  Chris in AL | 

    Is smuggling heroine in oil even a real thing? Is there a way to chemically retrieve the heroine later? We can’t even separate oil from a duck or a sea otter.

    Jokes on them. The whole van was made of heroine!

  20. #20 |  paranoiastrksdp | 

    Yes, Chris, it’s possible. Read my post above. It’s just not really that plausible.

  21. #21 |  Deoxy | 

    Links to the prior field test horror stories in the headline here.

    The chocolate chip cookies link at that link is dead now – it’s a good story (referenced in one of the other links at that link), so it’d be nice if you could find it again.

  22. #22 |  AlgerHiss | 

    Could it be that Justin Bieber is actually more feminine then Taylor Swift?

    Or, is Taylor Swift more masculine than Justin Bieber?

  23. #23 |  Kanye West | 

    AlgerHiss ima go ahead an let you make a post like that but you know Beyonce is way mroe masculine than either of them.

  24. #24 |  Stephen | 

    Totally off topic but I just noticed this guy.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_DKWlrA24k&feature=player_profilepage

  25. #25 |  Francis | 

    “So if you’re on a jury, you’re obligated by the exclusionary rule to ignore any evidence obtained after a positive field test.”

    I’d say if you’re on a jury, you’re obligated by your conscience as a human being (and your right to nullify unjust laws) to vote to acquit for any and all non-violent drug “crimes.”

  26. #26 |  Stephen | 

    Some more OT.

    http://gawker.com/5831167/jon-stewart-why-is-the-media-ignoring-ron-paul

  27. #27 |  croaker | 

    The day will come when cop funerals have Westboro-style protests.

    And unlike the military, these cops have it coming.

  28. #28 |  Ross | 

    Back in the 1950s, the RCMP was a police force to be proud of. What happened?

  29. #29 |  JOR | 

    “And unlike the military, these cops have it coming.”

    The military had it coming. Though not for the reasons Westboro thinks they did. (Cops won’t have it coming for Westboro-style reasons either.)

  30. #30 |  Deoxy | 

    In the interest of making the standard of behaviour something that can actually be achieved, I’d like to point out that, as best I can tell, the US military is and has been for some time the best behaved military of any significant power in the history of mankind.

    Unless you have reason to dispute that, then you are simply placing the minimum standard of behaviour outside of anything anyone, anywhere has ever actually achieved, and as such, are useless and should be ignored.

    That’s not to say that desiring improvement is bad (the military certainly is not perfect), nor is it bad to even work towards and publicly proclaim such desire. But saying “The military had it coming”, when no one has ever done better, is rather silly.

  31. #31 |  MAX GRANDE | 

    Deoxy, I suppose you mean well. However, “as best I can tell” rather limits your response. I suspect that, if you were to study modern history (i.e. starting with our war in the Philippines and working through to Vietnam and then on to the very moderns: Iraq and Afghanistan and, now, Libya) you would learn about a VERY badly behaved military. The only thing differentiating us from the “others” is that we control the presses.

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