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‘False positives’ suggest police exploit canines to justify searches

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Ex-cop: Police ‘using dogs to trample our rights as citizens’

A study of “false positives” involving drug-sniffing police dogs suggests some police forces may be using canines to do an end-run around constitutional protections against search and seizure, and may be profiling racial minorities in the process.

A survey of primarily suburban police departments in Illinois, carried out by the Chicago Tribune, found that 56 percent of all police searches triggered by a drug-sniffing dog turned nothing up.

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But, perhaps tellingly, that number jumped to 73 percent when the search involved a Latino subject — meaning that nearly three-quarters of all dog alerts on Latinos turned up no contraband. The study covered a two-year period from 2007 to 2009.

Police spokespeople say the numbers are no surprise, because dogs’ noses can sniff the residue of drugs on a person or in a vehicle long after the drugs have been removed.

But civil liberties advocates smell a rat, and say this is evidence that police are using canines to carry out racial profiling and unjustified searches. And dog-training experts say the problem stems at least in part from an almost complete lack of standards for police dogs in the US.

“We know that there is a level of racial profiling going on, and this is just another indicator of that,” Virginia Martinez, an attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, told the Tribune. “People of color are just targets.”

Barry Cooper, a former Texas police officer who has worked with police dogs, told Raw Story that use of canines has “gone out of control in America. They’re using dogs as an excuse to search cars when people refuse consent. The reason it’s like this is because the dogs aren’t always really alerting: it’s actually the cops using those dogs to trample our rights as citizens.”

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Cooper said he was recently hired to assess an Arizona police dog handler’s record. “Out of 50 traffic stops, the canine reportedly alerted on every car but four. Drugs were only found on six occasions,” he said.

Lawrence Myers, an Auburn University professor who studies police dogs, told the Tribune that residue from long-gone drugs isn’t the only way a dog can give a false positive. Dog handlers can trigger a false positive from a dog by walking it around a car too many times, or too slowly, giving the dog a cue that a certain behavior is expected.

Myers pointed to the “Clever Hans” phenomenon in the early 1900s, named after a horse whose owner claimed the animal could read and do math before a psychologist determined the horse was actually responding to his master’s unwitting cues.

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Cooper told Raw Story that part of the problem stems from a lack of standards for police dogs. “There is no standardized test for these dogs. Anybody could open up tomorrow and start selling dogs to cops.”

The Tribune notes that the legal system offers little remedy for the problem, because while drug seizures end up in court, false positives don’t, leaving little room for judges to rule on the legality of the searches.

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Put together, the situation makes for an alarming opportunity to violate individuals’ rights, civil rights activists say.

“We’ve seen a national outcry about being frisked and scanned at airports,” ACLU attorney Adam Schwartz told the Tribune. “The experience of having police take your car apart for an hour is far more invasive and frightening and humiliating.”

With additional reporting by Stephen C. Webster

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Fox News hosts are going back to downplaying threat from coronavirus: report

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Major Fox News personalities like Sean Hannity spent weeks assuring viewers that the novel coronavirus wasn't a serious threat. In recent weeks, however, they have shifted to a different narrative, acknowledging that the virus is dangerous but giving President Donald Trump credit for taking action and criticizing Democrats' lack of action — even though many Democrats, in fact, warned the pubic first.

But according to The Daily Beast, even as there is no clear end to the crisis in sight, and even as the U.S. crosses 13,000 deaths, many Fox News hosts are going back to downplaying the virus, either telling viewers it wasn't as bad as advertised and urging the president to end public safety measures against it.

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The dangers of Trump TV: MSNBC host hammers Fox News as ‘genuine public health threat’ amid pandemic

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Tuesday night, Fox News decided that all anyone needed to do is to pump Americans with a Malaria drug and send them back to work to save President Donald Trump's economy.

Speaking Wednesday night, MSNBC host Chris Hayes bashed the conservative network for downplaying the seriousness of coronavirus, saying that they are "a genuine public health threat."

While Trump has advisers like Dr. Anthony Fauci, he also has the unofficial advisers he sees on Fox News.

They "are coalescing around the idea the whole thing is just overblown and we need to pump everyone full of the malaria drug and get them back to work. This is what you heard if you watch trump tv just last night," Hayes said. He then played clips illustrating exactly that, with hosts ranting and raving about the virus not being as serious as the flu.

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‘Don’t let him rewrite history’: GOP ex-congressman slams Trump for painting fewer than 100,000 COVID-19 deaths as a victory

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At Wednesday's coronavirus task force press conference, President Donald Trump reiterated his claim that if fewer than 100,000 Americans die from COVID-19, it will be a victory for him.

Former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) had none of it.

He ignored the warnings. He ignored the scientists & doctors. He refused to prepare. He lied about the virus. This country wasn’t ready. People got sick. People died. People lost their jobs. Because he cared more about himself than the country.

Don’t let him rewrite history. https://t.co/9snqoJ1VQI

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