Cops With Super Sniffers Fool No One Except the Judge

After three police officers claimed that their K-9 units were olfactory adept during a traffic stop, on October 5, 2019, Des Moines, Iowa’s human crime sniffers took over. Court DocumentsThe U.S. Court of Appeals 8th Circuit revealed the following: Vernon Shumaker, Vernon Shumaker claimed that they had detected marijuana as they drove behind Vernon Shumaker. 

Officers testified they found less than 1 gram of marijuana inside a container from a moving vehicle, which was about a football field away. However, the wind was strong enough to blow across traffic. Two cars ahead, they could smell burning marijuana in the patrol car’s open windows.

Officers maintained that there was probable cause for the car to be stopped because of the whiff. A few marijuana blunts were found in an unlit ashtray. Shumakers was also arrested for drug use and felonies.

Although they had all the evidence they required to be convicted, they still faced one hurdle: The Fourth Amendment. The probable cause requirement for officers to conduct searches or seizures is the prerequisite. Yet when Shumaker filed a motion to suppress evidence—based on the limits of human noses—the district court sided with the officers. The 8th Circuit upheld it rulingOn December 29, 20,21

The bulwark for civil rights is the court. The courts are essential for citizens. engaged judiciaryThis places the burden on government. Yet too often, courts bend over backward to justify officers’ testimony, no matter how implausible—even when government officials have Clear ConflictsOf interest.

Iowa police agencies regularly use traffic enforcement. Generate revenueThrough a money-making scheme known as civil forfeiture. When officers seize cash and other valuables, civil forfeiture forces property owners to file affidavits and pay legal fees to recover their assets—even when they are innocent of wrongdoing.

The cost of confiscated items is often greater than their value, leading many property owners and managers to leave. However, ReformsThe 2017 Iowa Legislature made it so that motorists can permanently lose their assets, without being charged or arrested. The assets are kept by the police and prosecutors at 100 percent.

Police for Profit“A 2020 report by the Institute for Justice shows how civil forfeiture generated more that $100 million for Iowa law enforcement agency in the past 20 years.

This is a powerful financial incentive to aggressive traffic patrols. Shumaker was taken into custody by the Des Moines Police Department’s Special Enforcement Team. One team member testified that they do “as many stop as possible”. 

This practice has been the focus of a cottage business. This is the essence of cottage industry. Director of the Smell & Taste CenterShumaker was represented by the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, who testified for Shumaker. He stated that Shumaker’s case was riddled with misconduct. They followed this up by a second expert witness. Desert SnowA multi-million-dollar firm that trains cops in civil forfeiture procedures, called. They claimed that noses can be used to do incredible things if given proper training and experience. This claim was strong enough to be approved by the courts. 

It is a corrosive act to the Constitution for passive judges to accept arguments from government officials without rigorous scrutiny. Evidently, something is wrong with law enforcement. The courts don’t know how to find it.