Police overreach (and incompetency) is way too common. Reports of police brutality are rampant, but you would think, in this day and age, that plain old garden-variety incompetency would not happen. After all, with all the technology that police can put into investigations, they should be able to figure things out pretty quickly, right?
Well, not always, it seems.
Take the unfortunately case of a lady in Florida. Daniel Jennings gives us the details:
Rebecca Shaw spent five months in jail because a sheriff’s deputy conducted a field test that could not tell the difference between vitamins and oxycodone pills.
To make matters worse, it took a year for the state crime lab to test the pills and clear Shaw’s name.
“He does the field drug test and because it tests positive, nothing else mattered,” Shaw’s attorney, Patrick LeDuc, said of a Pasco County, Fla., deputy. “It didn’t matter she had no prior record, it didn’t matter she was out of gas.”
Shaw’s nightmare began in September 2015 when her car ran out of gas. A deputy received permission to search her vehicle, found the pills, ran the test and arrested her, The Miami Herald reported.
“He said, ‘They don’t look like vitamins. They look like oxycodone,’” Shaw said of the deputy, according to Fox 13 in Tampa.
She added, “It felt like my whole life was over. It was terrible. My kids were devastated. I was away for five months. I cried constantly.”
She was arrested on drug trafficking charges, and placed in jail for five months. She stayed there until her husband was able to raise $5,000 in bail money. It took another seven months for a Florida crime lab to retest the pills and discover they were vitamins. That caused prosecutors to finally drop the charges.
Imagine that you were in this lady’s situation. You’ve done nothing wrong, yet, because of a test that gives a false result and the assumption of a police officer, you spend nearly half of a year in jail away from your family. How would you feel?
But maybe you’re thinking that it’s all because she failed the drug test. What about that? Again, from Jennings:
Shaw is just one of many people who were jailed because of faulty field tests. Fox 13 went to a lab and had the kits themselves tested.
“We watched as aspirin, cough medicine, coffee and spices like oregano … tested positive for illegal drugs,” Fox 13 reporter Gloria Gomez reported. “These are the same kits used by law enforcement all over the country to make drug arrests.”
That’s right. The drug tests used by law enforcement officers consistently give false positive results. Yet, these are the tests used to arrest and convict people and put them into jail. Even if law enforcement officers are being honest (and I believe that the overwhelming majority are), if they are provided bad information, how can they do justice to people who they are dealing with? The answer is that, many times, they can’t.
This is a huge problem. We need to insist that our law enforcement officers are provided the absolute best information. If they do otherwise, more innocent people will have their rights trampled on, too.