Vice Squad
Saturday, May 21, 2005
What, No Guns Drawn?

A middle school in Pennsylvania was placed in "lockdown" at 2PM on Tuesday:
Students were kept in their classrooms while three dogs searched the building, looking for marijuana, cocaine, crack, amphetamines, heroin and ecstasy.
The dogs were claimed to have "alerted" on 31 lockers -- this school might be the very fulcrum of the global trade in illegal drugs. So the authorities padlocked the highly suspicious lockers (along with neighboring ones), then went about securing a search warrant. It isn't clear why they didn't follow their own policy and just open the lockers and look inside, but one gets the suspicion (or at least I get the suspicion) that they were hoping to lay some heavy criminal charges on the student druggies -- charges that might have been compromised by having school officials muck about in a bunch of lockers. Four hours later, the search warrant dutifully was issued and arrived -- dog sniffs establish probable cause, of course; come to think of it, not just probable cause, but near certain guilt. If it's a dog's alert versus some kid's word, or even my own eyes, I'll go with the dog every time. But before they executed the search pursuant to the warrant, they let the kids out of school -- hey, what sort of half-hearted "lockdown" was this? -- so that the youthful scholars could see whose lockers had fallen afoul of the canine coppers. Oh yeah, no drugs were found. Zero-for-thirty-one. Better days ahead, drug sniffing pooches. Naturally, officials, parents, and even some students, with some exceptions, are rushing to express their support for this first-rate operation. Among the exceptions, however, are some sensible police.

Add Mechanicsburg Area Middle School to the honor roll that includes such stalwarts as Stratford High and Milford High.

Thanks to Ken at Crim Law for the pointer; Ken got the word from Christopher Coyle.

Update: Though it is obvious, I just want to mention that the wrongheadedness of this operation is independent of the fact that no drugs were found (though that should be more reason to question the efficacy of dog sniffs); as in the other school cases, these over-the-top tactics wouldn't be salvaged by having a few illegal drugs show up in one or two lockers.

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