Drug-detecting police dogs may be susceptible to signals, intentional or otherwise, by their handling officers, targeting innocent people when searching for illicit substances, according to the
’s Radley Balko. Centuries of domestication of dogs have instilled in them an ability to read the body language of and a desire to please humans, Balko says. Proper training of police dogs is supposed to override this instinct but if improperly trained, when an officer regards someone with suspicion, regardless of whether there is any justification for that bias, the dog may sense that and react, creating a false alarm.
A case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit alleged that improper training of K9 units is a violation of 14
amendment rights. The plaintiff pointed out that the dog that searched his car had a 93 percent alert rate and only a 59 percent accuracy rate. When a dog is detecting drugs almost 100 percent of the time, this is not a reliable tool for creating probable cause, the suit alleged.
“A dog prone to false alerts means more searches, which means more opportunities to find and seize cash and other lucre under asset forfeiture policies,” Balko writes.
The court called the allegations troubling, but ruled that they do not amount to a violation of the 14
Read the ruling