Not so dope: Police test first marijuana breathalyzer on Cali drivers
RT - 9/14/2016
Police in the US have gotten their hands on a marijuana breathalyzer and drivers in California were among the first to be tested –with nationwide distribution planned for next year.
As part of an initial field test, several erratic drivers were pulled over and asked to voluntarily blow into the breathalyzer. Two of the drivers who took part in the test admitted to smoking marijuana in the previous 30 minutes, and delivered a positive reading on the handheld device.
Other drivers who confessed to smoking pot within the previous two to three hours also tested positive – none of whom were arrested, although those who tested positive were not allowed to continue driving.
“Basically everyone agreed because they were curious,” said Mike Lynn, CEO of Hound Labs, the Oakland-based company who developed the device with some help from the University of California’s chemistry department.
Lynn, who also works as an emergency room doctor in Oakland, California, and a reserve officer with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, tagged along with officers to assist in the pullovers and testing.
“We were not trying to arrest people. ... Sure, we could arrest people and people are arrested every day for driving stoned, but the objective was not to put people in jail but to educate them and use the device if they volunteered so we could get the data," Lynn added.
One driver was arrested during the testing, however, but for being under the influence of alcohol.
The “groundbreaking” device can detect THC (the main ingredient in pot) on a person’s breath when they have eaten food like gummy bears or brownies, as well as alcohol.
Following some more tests to validate the technology’s results, Hound Labs hopes to widely distribute the device to law enforcement in the first half of next year.
Until now, police had to rely on an imperfect system of testing saliva, urine and blood samples to measure marijuana in the system, which can show the presence of the drug days after the user is actually under the influence.
Chief of Police in Lompoc, California, Patrick Walsh, has already thrown his support behind the innovative device which he plans on issuing to at least six of his departments over the next six months.
“We are looking for the least invasive way to obtain information that indicates impairment, which is why we are participating in roadside tests,” said Walsh in the company's press release.
“We don't want to arrest people who are not impaired, and yet we don't want marijuana users driving if they are high from recent use," he added.
Italian Law Enforcement Join Push for Cannabis Legalization
Leafly - Enrico Fletzer - 09/7/2016
Italian law enforcement groups are throwing their weight behind a parliamentary bill to legalize cannabis in the country, building momentum for the effort to create Europe’s first fully legal adult-use market. Both the national anti-Mafia agency and the country’s police union have come out in favor of the proposal, which is set for further debate in the Italian parliament later this month.
If it passes, the bill would allow Italians to grow up to five cannabis plants, keep up to 15 grams of dried flower at home, and carry up to five grams with them. Cannabis would be sold in state-licensed stores, while non-commercial cannabis social clubs would allow up to 50 members to swap and share the cannabis they grow. The proposal has sparked an unprecedented public debate on the Italian peninsula, with various experts, politicians, and members of the law enforcement community taking an array of positions.
Italy’s bill has progressed further than any current legalization effort in Europe. A similar bill was introduced into parliament in Germany last year, but it has stagnated as lawmakers there focus instead on a bill to create a robust medical cannabis market.
The most recent endorsement for the Italian bill came last month from the largest and most influential police workers’ union, SIULP. The group’s general secretary, Felice Romano, expressed his support for the proposal in no uncertain terms.
“These are substances that today are used for therapeutic purposes, and cannabis is cultivated by the Italian army,” he said. “If cannabis were sold through a legal framework, it would be less dangerous and would not contain chemical pollutants and additives that do more damage than the active ingredients.”
Support from Italian police bolsters the pro-legalization stance ofDirezione Nazionale Antimafia, (DNA) the country’s anti-Mafia agency, which has taken a firm stance against prohibition. In April, Franco Roberti, Italy’s top prosecutor and head of the DNA, said decriminalizing cannabis would strike a blow to Islamic State militants and Italian mobsters alike, as the two entities have teamed up to smuggle hash into Italy. The interview made headlines around the world.
Is it time to reconsider the militarization of American policing?
Daily Republic/Associated Press
By Radley Balko
On Jan. 4 of last year, a local narcotics strike force conducted a raid on the Ogden, Utah, home of Matthew David Stewart at 8:40 p.m. The 12 officers were acting on a tip from Mr. Stewart's former girlfriend, who said that he was growing marijuana in his basement. Mr. Stewart awoke, naked, to the sound of a battering ram taking down his door. Thinking that he was being invaded by criminals, as he later claimed, he grabbed his 9-millimeter Beretta pistol.
The police say that they knocked and identified themselves, though Mr. Stewart and his neighbors said they heard no such announcement. Mr. Stewart fired 31 rounds, the police more than 250. Six of the officers were wounded, and Officer Jared Francom was killed. Mr. Stewart himself was shot twice before he was arrested. He was charged with several crimes, including the murder of Officer Francom.
The police found 16 small marijuana plants in Mr. Stewart's basement. There was no evidence that Mr. Stewart, a U.S. military veteran with no prior criminal record, was selling marijuana. Mr. Stewart's father said that his son suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and may have smoked the marijuana to self-medicate.
Early this year, the Ogden city council heard complaints from dozens of citizens about the way drug warrants are served in the city. As for Mr. Stewart, his trial was scheduled for next April, and prosecutors were seeking the death penalty. But after losing a hearing last May on the legality of the search warrant, Mr. Stewart hanged himself in his jail cell.
The police tactics at issue in the Stewart case are no anomaly. Since the 1960s, in response to a range of perceived threats, law-enforcement agencies across the U.S., at every level of government, have been blurring the line between police officer and soldier. Driven by martial rhetoric and the availability of military-style equipment—from bayonets and M-16 rifles to armored personnel carriers—American police forces have often adopted a mind-set previously reserved for the battlefield. The war on drugs and, more recently, post-9/11 antiterrorism efforts have created a new figure on the U.S. scene: the warrior cop—armed to the teeth, ready to deal harshly with targeted wrongdoers, and a growing threat to familiar American liberties.
The acronym SWAT stands for Special Weapons and Tactics. Such police units are trained in methods similar to those used by the special forces in the military. They learn to break into homes with battering rams and to use incendiary devices called flashbang grenades, which are designed to blind and deafen anyone nearby. Their usual aim is to "clear" a building—that is, to remove any threats and distractions (including pets) and to subdue the occupants as quickly as possible.
Today the U.S. has thousands of SWAT teams. A team prepares to enter a house in Vallejo, Calif., on March 20, above.
The country's first official SWAT team started in the late 1960s in Los Angeles. By 1975, there were approximately 500 such units. Today, there are thousands. According to surveys conducted by the criminologist Peter Kraska of Eastern Kentucky University, just 13% of towns between 25,000 and 50,000 people had a SWAT team in 1983. By 2005, the figure was up to 80%.
The number of raids conducted by SWAT-like police units has grown accordingly. In the 1970s, there were just a few hundred a year; by the early 1980s, there were some 3,000 a year. In 2005 (the last year for which Dr. Kraska collected data), there were approximately 50,000 raids.
A number of federal agencies also now have their own SWAT teams, including the Fish & Wildlife Service, NASA and the Department of the Interior. In 2011, the Department of Education's SWAT team bungled a raid on a woman who was initially reported to be under investigation for not paying her student loans, though the agency later said she was suspected of defrauding the federal student loan program.
The details of the case aside, the story generated headlines because of the revelation that the Department of Education had such a unit. None of these federal departments has responded to my requests for information about why they consider such high-powered military-style teams necessary.
Americans have long been wary of using the military for domestic policing. Concerns about potential abuse date back to the creation of the Constitution, when the founders worried about standing armies and the intimidation of the people at large by an overzealous executive, who might choose to follow the unhappy precedents set by Europe's emperors and monarchs.
The idea for the first SWAT team in Los Angeles arose during the domestic strife and civil unrest of the mid-1960s. Daryl Gates, then an inspector with the Los Angeles Police Department, had grown frustrated with his department's inability to respond effectively to incidents like the 1965 Watts riots. So his thoughts turned to the military. He was drawn in particular to Marine Special Forces and began to envision an elite group of police officers who could respond in a similar manner to dangerous domestic disturbances.
Mr. Gates initially had difficulty getting his idea accepted. Los Angeles Police Chief William Parker thought the concept risked a breach in the divide between the military and law enforcement. But with the arrival of a new chief, Thomas Reddin, in 1966, Mr. Gates got the green light to start training a unit. By 1969, his SWAT team was ready for its maiden raid against a holdout cell of the Black Panthers.
At about the same time, President Richard Nixon was declaring war on drugs. Among the new, tough-minded law-enforcement measures included in this campaign was the no-knock raid—a policy that allowed drug cops to break into homes without the traditional knock and announcement. After fierce debate, Congress passed a bill authorizing no-knock raids for federal narcotics agents in 1970.
Over the next several years, stories emerged of federal agents breaking down the doors of private homes (often without a warrant) and terrorizing innocent citizens and families. Congress repealed the no-knock law in 1974, but the policy would soon make a comeback (without congressional authorization).
During the Reagan administration, SWAT-team methods converged with the drug war. By the end of the 1980s, joint task forces brought together police officers and soldiers for drug interdiction. National Guard helicopters and U-2 spy planes flew the California skies in search of marijuana plants. When suspects were identified, battle-clad troops from the National Guard, the DEA and other federal and local law enforcement agencies would swoop in to eradicate the plants and capture the people growing them.
Advocates of these tactics said that drug dealers were acquiring ever bigger weapons and the police needed to stay a step ahead in the arms race. There were indeed a few high-profile incidents in which police were outgunned, but no data exist suggesting that it was a widespread problem. A study done in 1991 by the libertarian-leaning Independence Institute found that less than one-eighth of 1% of homicides in the U.S. were committed with a military-grade weapon. Subsequent studies by the Justice Department in 1995 and the National Institute for Justice in 2004 came to similar conclusions: The overwhelming majority of serious crimes are committed with handguns, and not particularly powerful ones.
The new century brought the war on terror and, with it, new rationales and new resources for militarizing police forces. According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, the Department of Homeland Security has handed out $35 billion in grants since its creation in 2002, with much of the money going to purchase military gear such as armored personnel carriers. In 2011 alone, a Pentagon program for bolstering the capabilities of local law enforcement gave away $500 million of equipment, an all-time high.
The past decade also has seen an alarming degree of mission creep for U.S. SWAT teams. When the craze for poker kicked into high gear, a number of police departments responded by deploying SWAT teams to raid games in garages, basements and VFW halls where illegal gambling was suspected. According to news reports and conversations with poker organizations, there have been dozens of these raids, in cities such as Baltimore, Charleston, S.C., and Dallas.
In 2006, 38-year-old optometrist Sal Culosi was shot and killed by a Fairfax County, Va., SWAT officer. The investigation began when an undercover detective overheard Mr. Culosi wagering on college football games with some buddies at a bar. The department sent a SWAT team after Mr. Culosi, who had no prior criminal record or any history of violence. As the SWAT team descended, one officer fired a single bullet that pierced Mr. Culosi's heart. The police say that the shot was an accident. Mr. Culosi's family suspects the officer saw Mr. Culosi reaching for his cellphone and thought he had a gun.
Assault-style raids have even been used in recent years to enforce regulatory law. Armed federal agents from the Fish & Wildlife Service raided the floor of the Gibson Guitar factory in Nashville in 2009, on suspicion of using hardwoods that had been illegally harvested in Madagascar. Gibson settled in 2012, paying a $300,000 fine and admitting to violating the Lacey Act. In 2010, the police department in New Haven, Conn., sent its SWAT team to raid a bar where police believed there was underage drinking. For sheer absurdity, it is hard to beat the 2006 story about the Tibetan monks who had overstayed their visas while visiting America on a peace mission. In Iowa, the hapless holy men were apprehended by a SWAT team in full gear.
Unfortunately, the activities of aggressive, heavily armed SWAT units often result in needless bloodshed: Innocent bystanders have lost their lives and so, too, have police officers who were thought to be assailants and were fired on, as (allegedly) in the case of Matthew David Stewart.
In my own research, I have collected over 50 examples in which innocent people were killed in raids to enforce warrants for crimes that are either nonviolent or consensual (that is, crimes such as drug use or gambling, in which all parties participate voluntarily). These victims were bystanders, or the police later found no evidence of the crime for which the victim was being investigated. They include Katherine Johnston, a 92-year-old woman killed by an Atlanta narcotics team acting on a bad tip from an informant in 2006; Alberto Sepulveda, an 11-year-old accidentally shot by a California SWAT officer during a 2000 drug raid; and Eurie Stamps, killed in a 2011 raid on his home in Framingham, Mass., when an officer says his gun mistakenly discharged. Mr. Stamps wasn't a suspect in the investigation.
What would it take to dial back such excessive police measures? The obvious place to start would be ending the federal grants that encourage police forces to acquire gear that is more appropriate for the battlefield. Beyond that, it is crucial to change the culture of militarization in American law enforcement.
Consider today's police recruitment videos (widely available on YouTube), which often feature cops rappelling from helicopters, shooting big guns, kicking down doors and tackling suspects. Such campaigns embody an American policing culture that has become too isolated, confrontational and militaristic, and they tend to attract recruits for the wrong reasons.
If you browse online police discussion boards, or chat with younger cops today, you will often encounter some version of the phrase, "Whatever I need to do to get home safe." It is a sentiment that suggests that every interaction with a citizen may be the officer's last. Nor does it help when political leaders lend support to this militaristic self-image, as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg did in 2011 by declaring, "I have my own army in the NYPD—the seventh largest army in the world."
The motivation of the average American cop should not focus on just making it to the end of his shift. The LAPD may have given us the first SWAT team, but its motto is still exactly the right ideal for American police officers: To protect and serve.
SWAT teams have their place, of course, but they should be saved for those relatively rare situations when police-initiated violence is the only hope to prevent the loss of life. They certainly have no place as modern-day vice squads.
Many longtime and retired law-enforcement officers have told me of their worry that the trend toward militarization is too far gone. Those who think there is still a chance at reform tend to embrace the idea of community policing, an approach that depends more on civil society than on brute force.
In this very different view of policing, cops walk beats, interact with citizens and consider themselves part of the neighborhoods they patrol—and therefore have a stake in those communities. It's all about a baton-twirling "Officer Friendly" rather than a Taser-toting RoboCop.
Mr. Balko is the author of "Rise of the Warrior Cop," published this month by PublicAffairs.
Via - online.wsj.com
(Register-Guard) SPRINGFIELD — A medical marijuana user who threatened to sue the city of Springfield after police ticketed him for carrying the drug into the Springfield Justice Center has instead accepted a $7,500 settlement that allows the city to deny any alleged wrongdoing in the incident.
By settling the case, Paul McClain gave up his right to file a lawsuit accusing Springfield police of violating his civil rights in February 2010, when they issued him a citation charging him with marijuana possession.
It’s an interesting story. The Register-Guard reports that our medical marijuana patient went to the courthouse to work out some unpaid traffic fines. He let court officials search his backpack and they found a “small amount” of cannabis. He shows his patient card. Two cops verify him on the state registry and order him to take his medicine outside the building.
Then our patient stashes his medicine and walks back to the building. The cops give him a ticket for marijuana possession, even though he didn’t have his medicine on him at that time. That’s when a state senator – Floyd Prozanski, a longtime ally of the medical marijuana movement – gets involved:
Police said officer Brian Antone wrote the ticket because he interpreted Oregon’s medical marijuana law as saying that state-registered patients are prohibited from carrying the drug in a public place.
McClain’s case prompted state Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, to advise Springfield Municipal Court Judge James Strickland in writing that the law’s intent is to prohibit people from smoking or growing pot in public and “not the simple act of carrying their medicine on their person or in their belongings when in a public place.”
Our patient then writes up a tort claim with the city, claiming a 14th Amendment violation of due process because nobody ever said you couldn’t bring marijuana into the courthouse. Really. A two-page letter just got him out of a $500 ticket and netted him a $7,500 check.
I think I would have enjoyed reporting on that courtroom battle. On one side, a man who got a ticket for bringing cannabis to court claiming a civil rights violation. On the other side, a government that has to explain why nobody else’s legal medicines have to be checked at the courthouse door, but legal cannabis patients’ must be stashed or confiscated. Testifying for the prosecution, police officers who don’t even know what the medical marijuana law says.