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A few days ago, a friend of mine (who many in FF know) told me about a guy that HE knows who lives behind a FF cop (the one on north 5th st. - right near broadway, for those who know this story). The cop has a dog. The dog has a dog collar. Apparently the dog loses his collar. The cop accuses the guy (his next door neighbor who is purportedly a known and respected member of the FF community) of stealing the collar! So the cop and some other FF cops arrest him and search his house, finding nothing!! And later on they find the collar somewhere down the street - so now the guy is apparently suing the FFPD as a result. I guess it is not easy to find good police help in FF (fwiw, the cop who lost the dog collar has to weigh well over 300 lbs)
Anyway, back to our ordeal - ya it sucked in every way - whether marijuana should be legalized is one matter that warrants discussion - but the disturbing thing to me is the dishonesty with which they pursued and harassed completely innocent and law abiding citizens. This could happen to anyone.
As Laura just made the point to me, our ordeal should probably have been made as a separate blog entry (vs as a "nested" discussion comment) so that more people here might become aware of what could easily happen to any of them.
when i call a few days later, i am told that the trooper's video tape apparently stopped taping right before the dog came (sure it did) - do they not check their recorder? carry extra tapes? use a hard drive instead? nope - and on that we were found to have probably cause of drug possession
so, what actually happened? did the trooper chicken out on planting his drugs? did i make a big enough stink at the FFPD station that he was afraid? was it my recorded call to 911 - while i was i the back of HIS car - that i was afraid i was being set up by a dirty trooper? i don't know...
i filed a detailed complaint on the trooper with the iowa department of public safety - that's what the idps is set up to do - investigate complaints on cops - so after taking a detailed report (probably 40 mins on the phone with me), asking great detailed questions, the IDPS assistant bureau chief steve dejoode "sounded" like he was going to really pursue this - but then weeks later, he doesn't return my calls (he was busy and then forgot) - and then two months later, I get a letter from them signed by him stating that the investigation was closed - that indication no misbehavior was found - they never even bothered to get a statement from Laura - or even give me a copy of their report - whitewash, but did i really expect anything different?
so i started tuning into media reports of stuff like this that i happen to come across (bad cops - i wonder: "is it happening more now or did i just not tune in before?") and sending the links to Laura (below) - she grew up in FF - she trusted the police - she never knew anything like this goes on, let alone could happen to her:
she knows different now - and i guess we were lucky - my attorney friend later warned me to be careful around FF and maybe lay low for awhile (what?) - he said that if there are rogue cops here (and obviously they completely lied about smelling marijuana), that they might continue to harass me - he's right of course - they carry guns - in Socal, one can easily just disappears into the masses - and LAPD (and other bigger city cops) have better things to do than to harass some clean (no record - lives in nice beach town), educated white boy - apparently FFPD doesn't
...also, i really think they should legally require that any dog sniff MUST be taped in order use it as probably cause - i also think they should also be required to keep and provide the "false positive" record of any of their sniffer dogs (even though FFPD Sargent Thomas maintains that a dog could never have a false positive - even though in our case he obviously did)
anyway, thats our FFPD story - so as they used to say on Hill St Blues "be careful out there!"
He searches the car with 2 other cops - I wonder how big the conspiracy runs - I saw the Rodney King tapes - I have heard from from cousins who are former LAPD cops and county Sheriffs that setups and even beatings happen regularly in LA, they just don't usually happen to educated white guys or get video'd)
I see that the trooper's car video is running, but the camera in the trooper's car is so far away from our car, that it would not pick up a deft drug plant - so Laura and I wait in horror
I do call a FF friend of mine who is an attorney (its very late and he doesn't pick up) - Laura calls her dad and he doesn't know what exactly to tell her. He has lived here almost 30 years - he has always trusted the police, but he also knows his daughter. So we wait and watch as now 3 cops go thoroughly through her car. He comes back and says that they are impounding the car for an even deeper search and takes us to the FF police station - nothing was found yet (Laura's car is towed).
Once there, after they have all of our ID, we are told we can go - I tell a FF cop who was there what I believe is going on - and how the Prairie City guy hassled us first. The FF cop (who was apparently unrelated to the trooper's search, but knew about it) tells us that he understood that the Prairie cop radioed ahead - that the trooper was the Prairie cop's buddy and that he was waiting for us. I ask the FF cop to please watch the trooper's search of Laura's car carefully for me so that he doesn't plant anything, but i suspect that he really doesn't care
As the trooper goes through laura's car, we watch him drop and break a nice new $50 paper cutter that Laura had just bought in Des Moines - he claims that they will pay for it (though later they don't)
We called Laura's dad and he comes to pick us up after 2am. We both know that our normal law abiding lives may now change dramatically - which is just SO unfair and scary! neither of us sleep much - we have no idea what will happen next - we feel completely powerless
At home, I go online to watch videos of sniffer dogs reacting to contraband - "our" dog did NOTHING like the sniffer dogs "alerting" - not even in the least - and also read about dogs making errors and the requirement in SOME states to have that information as part of the legal record
In the morning Laura calls the FFPD, and they tell her she can come pick up her car
she asks, if we are being charged, and the phone dispatcher say he is not sure but he doesn't think so - its the trooper's case
so we go to get her car, and when there talk to the FFPD "front window" - they don't know anything as again, it was the trooper's case, but say we can take her car
though, it WAS the FFPD dog sniffers and we want to file a complaint. So they tell us to come back later and talk to an investigating sergeant, which we do - we tell him every detail - he listens deadpan
I ask how often the dogs are wrong? and also how does FFPD calibrate their dogs? i am told by FFPD investigating Sergeant David Thomas that a sniffer dog is never wrong! ...now, i am a scientist, and i know this to be false - almost nothing is 100% accurate, and certainly not an animal and a trainer who "reads" that animal - plus i read up quite a bit about it - of COURSE sniffer dogs make false positives, and they also can make false negatives (can miss when something is actually there) - in any case, he maintains his argument that a dog is never wrong (he says he used to work with sniffer dogs for many years), so i know that this is probably going nowhere
but i ask him to at least please get a copy of the tape and to review it, and then to also to show it to me (i watched and know that the dog didn't respond - as there was nothing for the dog to respond to) - he agrees to this - i am somewhat hopeful for vindication yet
Last Nov, Laura and I were driving back from Des Moines about 8pm - we were there for the day and had just seen an indie flick at the Fleur and were heading back to FF. Cruising a bit too fast (~70) down 163 we got stopped just outside of Des Moines by a Prairie City policeman. I am from LA, and in LA, when you get stopped, you put your interior lights on, open your window and keep both your hands up on the wheel where they can be fully seen as the cop approaches, so as to not get drawn on and also to be respectful (and also hopefully to get out of the ticket showing them respect and making their stop easier). So in full police deference position, I waited for him to approach the car
I gave him my paper work and he asks me to get out of the car and come over to his car. Now I have been stopped for traffic citations many dozens of times over the years in SoCal, and I have never been asked to sit in a police car for some routine mild speed stop. Once there, he started asking me about Laura - what was she like, how long have I known her and how did she feel when I had to go back to CA - very weird stuff. I tried to be as nice as possible, but this guy was weirding me out. My paperwork all checked out, and he could have just written me a ticket and let me be on my way, but he asked me to stay in his car as he went to talk to Laura, who was still sitting bewildered in the passenger seat of her car. He was there a few minutes and then he came back to talk to me more. He said that he thought I was acting suspicious. I told him i found it very weird that he had me in his car and was asking me weird personal questions about Laura. He said that he was just making conversation - he also said that he thought I had drugs.
Now I haven't had or been around drugs of any type in over 30 years - I don't even drink or smoke cigarettes. Not even coffee :) - He had teh totally wrong guy - so feeling challenged, I asked him if he wanted to search Laura's car. He asked me if that was OK and I said yes - he then walked back to Laura in her car who was kind of freaking out inside, and she didn't know what to do exactly, but he told her I said it was OK to search it, so she came back to stand by me outside the cop's car in sub zero weather as he thoroughly went through her whole car for over 30 minutes. She told me he asked her weird personal questions like how long did she know me and did she miss me when I went back to California - I started thinking he was planning on planting something in there (in fact this happened to me many years back in LA when I was 16, and with relatives in the LAPD, I know it is not uncommon), and I watched in concern. But he came back and said we were free to go, so after an hour plus, we continued back to FF.
The story isn't nearly over.
Continuing back into FF on 34, we pull onto the Burlington offramp. We are immediately stopped by an Iowa State Trooper. He claims we were speeding (we weren't). As he is talking to me, I tell him about the weird experience I just had back in Prairie City, thinking he might sympathize what we had just been through. He asks me to get out of the car and to step into his car with Laura staying. OK, so now I am really thinking something fishy is going on. He asks me if he can search the car - I told him it had just been thoroughly searched and say no, that if he is going to charge me with something, fine, otherwise just let us go home. He tells me to wait in the car and has Laura come back to wait with me
(this is the FFPD part) He calls in the dog sniffers. So we sit and wait until they come - It is late, I am tired and feeling very harassed and ticked off. I watch as the dog and trainer go around and around the car - the dog reacts in absolutely no way at all, as I knew that it would. As the trooper comes back to the car, I am now feeling like telling him off for all the needless harassing of us, when he tells me the dog has indicated that there is marijuana on the car and also that a FFPD officer who talked to Laura could smell it on her clothes! And that he smells it on mine!!
Now Laura is allergic to smoke of any kind - she hates it - she won't even be around incense. Laura is very sweet and quiet and non-assuming, but she will say something to an adult (even if its a parent) who may be smoking near a child. This is an issue with her - she works on petitions to ban public smoking. Laura does NOT smell anything like marijuana, nor do I or the car . So now I know that this is a dirty Iowa State trooper and that we are being set up.