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May-19-2009 10:15TweetFollow @OregonNews
Are Drug Dogs and Increasing Police Scrutiny the Answer for Oregonians?Political Perspective by Tim King Salem-News.com
A special traffic operation on an Oregon Highway raises many questions about Civil Rights.
(SALEM, Ore.) - It's a different world out there these days when it comes to law enforcement. As the nation heads into the possibly unknown depths of a severe economic recession, or depression, I fail to see the wisdom of increasing secret police tactics on our highways, but that is what is taking place.
You see Americans have this thing called the Fourth Amendment. Regardless of what police and government agencies say or admit, they do not have a right to randomly search your car or person or home.
The reason police get away with what they do is attributable to nothing less than a weak citizenry; one that does not adequately involve itself in the actions of our lawmakers. This is sad.
I know they're just "doing their jobs" and all, but State Police in Oregon spent seven hours Friday conducting activities with drug dogs near The Dalles that led to scores of residents being in trouble. I fail to see what is really gained. I wouldn't feel this way if I didn't know that police in the United States regularly skirt the legal lines of this issue. I'm not saying the Oregon cops did that in this event, but the situation raises questions.
It is unlawful for officers to just pull a car over and run the dog up for a sniff. They can employ a drug dog if they have sufficient cause.
But what is taking place in Oregon, is that motorists are being told to submit to search and seizure, or drug dog will be brought to their location. This happened a few weeks ago on Highway 101 on the Oregon coast. The individual, who was Hispanic, told Salem-News.com that he was aware of the state trooper's presence, and kept his speed legal. He was still pulled over. When he told the officer he knew his Fourth Amendment rights, the trooper called in a canine unit.
This individual was apparently in possession of marijuana, and ultimately was cited for it, but it was never visible or detectable without a dog. That means there was not reasonable suspicion. What did the court do? They threw it out, that's what they did. It seems like some officers like to play the odds.
I spent time around deputies from Oklahoma while covering the war in Afghanistan. These were members of the Oklahoma National Guard who had been mobilized for combat. They candidly told me about how they orchestrate traffic pullovers by using a second deputy with a drug dog who would "coincidentally" be in the area.
Sure enough, the use of the dog in this way was getting them around the law that banned random use of drug dogs on traffic stops, and getting them convictions in court. This particular group told me they liked to pull over "rich college girls" who usually had some pot in their car. They talked about how people don't know their rights when it comes to search and seizure.
And they knew their drug dog trick was a sham.
In Friday's special traffic operation in Oregon, the police made a felony arrest for Child Neglect in the First Degree when an adult female caring for a 4-month old child was stopped for a traffic violation and subsequently arrested after she was found in possession of approximately 1 1/2 lbs. of marijuana.
So now one more Oregon mom is down for the count and off to prison; her kid to be raised by God knows who. A pound of pot, while enough to get you life in some states, is small change in Oregon and California. Even state medical marijuana laws allow a sizable amount to be transported. In fact I think that amount would be covered if the woman was a medical marijuana patient.
In Oregon you go from being medical patient to somebody who feels like Al Capone, in about two shakes of a lamb's tail.
The nation is changing fast when it comes to marijuana. Perhaps these cops arresting young mothers are part of the "Reefer Madness" generation; people who have just refused to acknowledge that the marijuana is anything but the evil "drug" it has been portrayed as.
Increasing numbers of Americans disagree with criminal penalties over marijuana, and most do so by experience. Tens of millions of Americans have or do regularly smoke pot.
Also, don't think there aren't cops out there who smoke it too. No names come to mind and I wouldn't disclose them if they did, but it is true and has always been true. In New York City back in the 1970's, cops used to be required to smoke a joint just to understand what they were dealing with. Now there was some wisdom.
Marijuana has never caused a death over several thousand years of use. It was widely accepted and used until two American firms; Dow Chemical and DuPont, created synthetic rope. In order to market it, they had to do something about getting the strongest natural fiber known to man off the store shelves; you guessed it, that fiber is the natural plant marijuana in its industrial form known as hemp.
There never was good reason for criminalizing a plant that grows naturally out of the ground. The only thing unnatural is the law against it. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were both hemp farmers.
Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor.
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