Skip to comments.Chambers County (Texas) Narcotics Task Force Goes Fishing
Posted on 02/03/2003 1:16:14 AM PST by Flyer
Chambers County Narcotics Task Force Goes Fishing
This goes under my category of "The traffic stop as the primary law enforcement tool." Some may classify this as good pro-active policing. I call it a fishing expedition.
I am a contract delivery driver. I return to passengers luggage that has been lost by various airlines. My range is a wide swath of southeast Texas. When Nacogdoches became the center of attention for the recovery of the shuttle Columbia, I knew I could expect to be heading that way. I received the first such call about 4:00 p.m. Sunday afternoon, February 2.
Northbound on Highway 59, a few miles south of Cleveland, I went past a semi-marked police vehicle (no external emergency lights; a seal on the door) that was parked in a median crossover. I was among 10 - 15 other vehicles. All of us were at or below the speed limit. Checking my rearview mirror I noticed the police vehicle had pulled onto the highway. In a short time he had worked his way through the traffic and positioned his car to the left and behind me - in my blind spot. I had the cruise control on and kept a steady speed. He maintained his position in my blind spot. After about a mile he pulled in my lane behind me and hit the lights.
After we were stopped on the shoulder he approached my door and asked me to step out and present my driver's license. It is more common for police to want one to stay in the car so I confirmed he wanted me to step out. He said the reason he stopped me was because "you were all over the road back there." He asked if I had been drinking and where I was going and why. When I told him I was headed to Nacogdoches to return some luggage, that wasn't good enough and I had to explain my job, my position as a contract driver, where I had picked up the luggage and so on. He asked me if I had any paperwork on the luggage and I showed my delivery ticket. He wanted to know who the person was that was named on the ticket. Again I explain I am just delivering the luggage and don't know the person.
He tells me he is going to check my license and write me a warning, and he returns to his car. Maybe five minutes pass and he approaches me and asks if I have ever been arrested before. I give him the date and charge of two previous arrests. He said the computer was running a little slow and he was still waiting for the return on my license. Next he asks if there are any drugs or guns in the car and I tell him no. He ask "Is it okay if I have a look?" I tell him no. He ask why and I tell him I need to get my delivery to Nacogdoches. "Well, that's your right. So I can't have a look?" he says. Again I tell him no. He points to an area further off the shoulder of the road and tells me to wait over there, he is going to call for a dog.
He makes his call from the car as I stand on the side of the road. And I stand there. And I stand there. It seemed much longer, but about 15 minutes later a City of Cleveland marked patrol car arrives. The officer gets his dog out and circles the car. Nothing. They circle it a second time. Nothing. They circle it a third time. Nothing. They circle it a fourth time. Nothing. The K-9 officer, the initiating officer and the third person go back towards the police cars. (the third person is with the initiating Task Force officer - I think he is just a ride along) I wait on the side of the road. After another 10 - 15 minutes a third police car arrives and the officer gets out with another dog. They circle the car once. Nothing. They circle the car twice. The dog barks once near the drivers door. They circle a third time. Nothing.
The initiating officer tells me the dog has indicated that there is, or has been, narcotics or other material in the car and he is going to have a look. He searches the driver's seat area first. Next he removes the luggage I am to deliver and opens it up on the shoulder of the road. He goes through all the items and smaller bags inside, the zippered pockets, etc. and puts it back in the car. He then searches the passenger side, my briefcase and camera case and so on. Next he opens the trunk. There is nothing in there but the spare tire but he knocks here and there looking for hidden compartments. Next he opens the hood and pokes around the engine compartment. He returns to the passenger area and searches some more.
An hour and a half after the initial stop he finishes the warning ticket (driving on the shoulder) and has me sign it. He says that if I have something in the car I have it well hidden and he still thinks my story is a little odd to him. End of encounter.
Some notes and observations:
The warning ticket was from the Chambers County Narcotics Task Force. I was in Liberty County.
The officer never asked to see my proof of insurance.
My car's tag number wasn't completed on the ticket.
I drive for a living. I won't claim I am above mistakes. I drove 100,000 miles last year without incident. I haven't had an accident or moving violation in 30 years.
50% of the drug sniffing dogs were wrong.
My opinion of law enforcement has been tainted again.
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I had a job to do. I just wanted to be honest and get on my way. Considering the 2 dog sniff, I don't think anything other than "yes sir, no sir" would have helped a bit.
Texas plates used to be more or less county specific, but not any longer.
Pooch could have smelled residue from money that had been used earlier by someone else in drug deals or to snort. Did they have the dog sniff YOU or your wallet too?
The dogs passed near me but they didn't appear to be "working" at that time. A 50% failure rate of drug sniffing dogs doesn't inspire a lot of confidence.
And don't forget the officer was in my blind spot. I have to turn my head about 15 degress to check my sideview mirror. I feel that it was somewhat of a setup to have me constantly checking that mirror.
That's about how far the stretch was. When I didn't consent to the search I should have been free to go. There was no probable cause at that point to hold me.
Gee, could a mechanic or the illegal alien at the car wash have set this off?
Or maybe we asked for an inch and they gave us a mile.
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