Drug Warriors Can’t Tell Donut Glaze from Meth, Drug War Rages On
July 29, 2016 (Fault Lines) — A recent story from Orlando about police officers confusing donut glaze for meth would almost be too ridiculous to believe if it weren’t for the drug war having provided us with decades of articles almost too ridiculous to believe:
An Orlando man said he’s considering taking legal action after he was arrested for having doughnut crumbs in his car.
Dan Rushing said he was wrongfully taken into custody because Orlando police thought the icing crumbs from a Krispy Kreme doughnut were crystal meth.
Police said it was a lawful arrest, and they tested the icing twice with their drug kits.
They said both times it came up as meth.
There’s an awful lot to digest just in that little snippet, including the simple fact that Rushing was arrested in the first place. Unless Krispy Kreme really went overboard with the icing and Rushing is the messiest doughnut-eater around, it’s worth noting that he was almost certainly taken into custody just for having a tiny little bit of something in his car.
Even if it was meth, it wasn’t like he was on his way to a playground to scrape his meager stash off the floorboards and force it upon the neighborhood children. It wasn’t like they thought they found some Polonium-210 in his car. They didn’t arrest him because they thought anyone was in danger because of the suspicious sugary glaze at all; worst-case scenario in their mind was probably that Rushing was going to get high.
Furthermore, police insistence that it was a lawful arrest even now is a clear sign of the way cops view the lawfulness of their actions, a product of the way the courts have long dealt with police officers who make mistakes and something that stands in stark contrast to how ordinary citizens are treated when they do the same.
No one is disputing that they arrested a guy for lawfully possessing doughnut glaze. They thought he did something wrong, but he didn’t. They deprived another human being of his liberty because their tests were faulty, and yet they continue to insist that what they did was lawful. Had the icing in fact been meth, but Rushing tested it twice and mistakenly determined each time that it wasn’t, police certainly wouldn’t have said his possession was lawful. Instead, they’d say he shouldn’t have trusted whatever crappy drug kits he used.
They’d never subject themselves to the same level of scrutiny. Indeed, it’s exceedingly unlikely that police will stop using the kits that can’t tell doughnut crumbs from meth even now. Cops will continue to arrest people because of these kits’ results, and courts will continue to say the results of these kits help to establish probable cause.
Moreover, the cops’ tremendous knowledge, training, and experience with illegal drugs, something they’ve probably testified about countless times with great success, appear to be just as useless as the kits:
“I recognized, thorough my 11 years of training and experience as a law enforcement officer, the substance to be some sort of narcotic,” the officer wrote in his report.
The saddest part of all of this may be that none of this is likely to stop cops from arresting, prosecutors from charging, and judges and juries from convicting, based on what Rushing’s situation clearly exposes as bullshit.
Rushing’s situation should also be a warning to those who shrug off the Fourth Amendment because they have nothing to hide:
The original incident happened on Dec. 11 when officers were called to a 7-Eleven on Colonial Boulevard in Orlando for possible drug activity.
Police said Rushing was pulled over after leaving the store for failing to stop at a stop sign and going 42 mph in a 30 mph zone.
Rushing said he gave officers permission to search his car.
The nothing-to-hide mentality that’s so popular among self-righteous people who don’t care too much about privacy rests on a faulty assumption about the competence of the people and tools involved in the criminal justice system. It assumes authorities are not just capable of identifying what’s legal and what’s illegal, but also that they care enough to put in the effort to get it right.
In Rushing’s case, cops were on the lookout for drugs. They didn’t really stop him for a rolling stop or speeding at all. They thought they would turn up drugs if they searched his car. It just so happened that they were just too stupid and their tests too unreliable to distinguish sugar from meth. Actual innocence doesn’t help in that sort of situation. It’s a prerequisite to avoid being arrested where cops target you like they did Rushing, but it’s anything but a guarantee it won’t happen anyway.
Rushing’s retelling of what happened is so good you really have to watch the whole thing:
Rushing was lucky enough to bond out. If he didn’t have resources, he might’ve sat in jail for much longer than ten and a half hours. Still, that’s disturbingly long considering he did nothing wrong. He was also lucky that prosecutors dismissed the case relatively promptly. In some jurisdictions, he might’ve wasted hours at hearing after hearing while the crime lab slogged through its backlog of other chemical tests before finally testing the doughnut glaze and clearing him. In some jurisdiction, maybe the lab’s testing would’ve just as unreliable as the field kits, and Rushing might’ve ended up convicted and stuck in substance abuse classes because of his messy doughnut habit.
In light of the fact really just possessed doughnut icing, the part about cops wanting him to work for them so they can help him out with his case is especially amusing. His attempt to bring down the nefarious icing cartel known as Krispy Kreme would’ve no doubt been comedic gold. How many franchises would he have to visit while wearing a wire before they’d determine he worked off his charges?
It’s easy to laugh about this now, and you have to appreciate Rushing’s good sense of humor, but it’s a pretty horrifying situation if you really think about it. These same tests and same cops have probably sent people away to prison for a very long time. A little bit of luck might be the only difference between them and Rushing.