BART Must Constrain Drug-Sniffing Dogs 

BART Must Constrain Drug-Sniffing Dogs 
Posted by FoM on December 21, 2001 at 07:10:46 PT
Source: Oakland Tribune 
For those BART passengers who have long complained that the transit system's service has gone to the dogs, tangible proof emerged last week when BART police and U.S. Customs Service agents began random onboard sweeps using drug-sniffing dogs. While the narcotics-sensitive canines have proven a hit with most commuters, their accusatory noses have caused civil libertarians to pick a bone with the dog dragnet's constitutionality, particularly as our country is already in a period when civil liberties are under pressure from the war on terrorism. 
The dog sweeps yielded a limited catch in one day's hunt on East Bay trains -- three people with small amounts of marijuana with another secreting a more significant multi-bagged stash of pot -- and a clutch of token marijuana holders were cited on a successive day. But the dogs failed to uncover the bonanza of kilos of cocaine, heroin and even more marijuana that some law enforcement officials suggested might be there for the nabbing on the rails. After talking to other law enforcement agencies, BART police became persuaded that the new San Francisco International Airport BART station, scheduled to open late next year, could become a prime conduit for off-the-plane drug smugglers and dealers. While last week's dog sweeps produced few drug busts, they do serve as a trial run for what might prove a much bigger narcotics-busting task once the SFO BART station opens. A more immediate concern, however, is the possible violation of constitutional rights that the dog sweeps represent. Legal experts have pointed out that searches are permissible under the Fourth Amendment only if there is a concrete suspicion that individuals have contraband on their persons. But the drug-sniffing dog patrols let loose last week operated in quasi-random fashion and will remain questionable until targets that are anticipated -- such as drug-toting suspects deplaning at SFO -- start stepping aboard BART trains at Millbrae next year. Another nagging problem with the dog sweeps is that they are not infallible, as not every person drug-sniffing dogs lead police to will actually be in possession of narcotics. These "false positives" could lead to follow-up searches such as pat-downs, adding to the potential for constitutional transgressions. "It's a noble cause, but you've got to do it without violating constitutional rights," said John Heller, a San Francisco attorney who has assisted the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California in civil rights cases. Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks upon our nation, the American public has become more tolerant of encroachments upon civil liberties in the name of counter-terrorism -- more than 60 percent of those polled have consistently approved of the Bush administration's controversial counter-terrorism bill passed by Congress -- and, in the scheme of things, may consider the drug-sniffing dog sweeps as harmless as a flea to civil liberties. Any dog, though, will tell you through its frantic scratching that even a flea can be an irritant. Care must be taken that legitimate drug-possession investigations don't morph into illegal searches and seizures. We certainly feel that government officials have a greater potential for infringing civil liberties under the new domestic counter-terrorism procedures than BART police do with drug-sniffing dogs. Nevertheless, sometimes even man's best friend needs to be kept on a leash.Source: Oakland Tribune (CA)Published: Friday, December 21, 2001Copyright: 2001 MediaNews Group, Inc. and ANG Newspapers Contact: triblet Website: Articles:Drug Raids On BART Anger Civil Libertarians Dog Prowling BART Cars 
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Comment #6 posted by Jose Melendez on December 24, 2001 at 05:40:55 PT:
the squeaky wheel gets the grease
Drug-sniffing pooch patrol lands BART in the doghouseLooking back, BART Board member Dan Richards has only one thing to say 
about the transit system's recent experiment putting a dope-sniffing dog on 
trains: "We really stepped in it."
According to BART officials, the doggy dope-sniffing patrol, which was a 
joint (pardon the pun) program between the U.S. Customs Service and the rapid-
transit cops, was merely an outgrowth of talks about BART's plans to start 
going directly into the airport.
"Customs had some concerns about smuggling, and one thing just led to 
another," said BART spokesman Mike Healy. "All they wanted to do was show how 
friendly and passively the dog interacted with passengers.
"The dog (Millie) was friendly and passive all right, but it also did what 
dope-sniffing dogs do, which is sniff out drugs on people," Healy added.
The result: one guy busted for having nine bags of pot, 13 people cited for 
smaller amounts -- and a whole lot of bad press.
"It was bad enough that we weren't told about the program before it started,
" says board member Richards, "but then once the public outcry came, BART 
management just sat on their backsides.
"Well, it's over now. You can tell people we've called off the dogs, so to 
"I just hope that when you report all this you note that the cops are still 
working 12-hour days and standing out there on the platforms to make sure the 
trains are safe, which is what they are supposed to be doing," Richards said.
GET ME A LAWYER: Warriors owner Chris Cohan seems to be spending more time 
these days on the court -- the court of law, that is.
First there's the court fight over the $20 million the Warriors allegedly 
owe Oakland and Alameda County for back rent and debt-service payments on the 
expensive remodeling of the Coliseum arena.
But now, in a fallout reminiscent of the Eddie DeBartolo-Carmen Policy 
split, Cohan is also is in the middle of a lawsuit against Robin Baggett, who 
was not only his boyhood buddy, best man at his wedding and personal attorney -
- but also the Warriors' general counsel.
It's not something either side wants to talk about, at least not for the 
record. But sources tell us that Cohan and Baggett and a third partner are 
embroiled in a fight over a vineyard and land-development deal down in San 
Luis Obispo that went sour.
Cohan was bought out of the deal at his own request when grape prices went 
south. But now grape prices have bounced back, and Cohan is accusing his chum 
of cheating him out of millions of dollars -- allegations Baggett has 
adamantly denied.
And this isn't the only Cohan friend feeling the Warriors' legal lash. He's 
also gone after his stockbroker Harry Fisher, his insurance agent Rich Milsner 
(who still represents the Warriors) and even his former partners at the 
And from what we hear, Cohan & Co. may soon be heading back to court again, 
this time over their inability to sell naming rights to the Coliseum arena.
While the very private Cohan didn't want to be interviewed for this piece, 
he has been quoted in the past as saying that lawsuits are "an unfortunate 
part of business" and that "I've sometimes gotten myself in trouble by being 
way too principled."
"It's really unbelievable," says one source following all the legal plays. 
"But then -- that's how he's gotten everything."
CLUCK CLUCK: San Francisco Assessor Doris Ward got her re-election campaign 
off with a real bang this past week. Unfortunately for Ward, in this case the 
"bang" was the sound of her shooting herself in the foot.
What we are talking about, of course, are the revelations last week by 
Chronicle reporters Lance Williams and Chuck Finnie that:
A) Ward used $48,750 in public funds to hire political consultant Claude 
Everhart to come into her office for a little pre-election image and 
efficiency brushup.
B) They actually put the deal in writing.
C) And once the deal was done, their first public move was to use city 
money to help put out a political brochure.
"Sad," "stupid" and "criminally dumb" were the three most-heard reactions 
to the news down at City Hall.
As one Ward supporter told us, "We were all prepared for the other attacks, 
like those old stories about Doris shopping on office time, but to have this 
come up just as she's going into a tough campaign . . . well, let's just say 
it's not going to be easy."
By the way, the last big campaign Ward adviser Everhart was involved with 
was former Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris' ill-fated run for the state Assembly -- 
the campaign in which they tried to get people to vote by handing out free 
chicken dinners.
BACK-DOOR BARRY: Look for the Giants to sign Giants home-run king Barry 
Bonds to a long-term -- and very lucrative -- contract within the next two 
"We're in the tweaking mode," is how one Giants insider described the 
contract talks.
Quite a switch from where things stood Monday when the Giants owners 
gathered at MoMo's Restaurant in South Beach for one of their regular lunches.
And the re-signing of holdout Bonds was topic No. 1.
Both sides were in a jam: The Giants didn't have the money Bonds wanted, 
and Bonds didn't have any serious offers from elsewhere.
At that point, team Executive VP Larry Baer told the owners he frankly 
didn't have much news to report because they were still waiting to hear from 
Bonds and his agent, Scott Boras, and given Major League Baseball rules, all 
they could do was wait.
"Technically, they couldn't call Bonds, but he could call them," explained 
one team insider.
As luck would have it, however, limited partner Richard Goldman had been on 
the phone with Bonds a week earlier to talk over a big donation Goldman was 
making to Bonds' charity foundation.
In the conversation, Bonds let it be known that he really wanted to keep 
playing for the Giants, but he felt the offer on the table didn't reflect his 
superstar status.
It was a story that quickly made its way around the lunch table, so by the 
next day Goldman was making a back-channel call to Bonds for a bit of ego-
The Goldman call, in turn, helped lead to more private back and forth -- 
and by Wednesday's free-agency deadline, the ice had been broken and Bonds was 
back on board with the Giants.
POST SCRIPT: A couple of weeks back we told you how the Presidio Park folks 
managed to spend $600,000 rehabbing the old commandant's house.
The final bill, we noted, included a $150 toilet seat, discounted from $299,
no less.
Well, someone out there must be sitting pretty -- because the toilet seat 
is gone.
Chronicle columnists Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross appear Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays. They can also be heard on KGO Radio on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Phil Matier can be seen regularly on KRON-TV. Got a tip? Call them at (415) 777-8815. 
©2001 San Francisco Chronicle
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Comment #5 posted by lookinside on December 21, 2001 at 19:34:27 PT:
using bart was a key and enjoyable part of our trips to oakland to get my wife's medicine...because of law enforcement's general attitude of "arrest and confiscate then try to get your medicine back", we won't be using bart anymore...too bad because the bart station is on the same block as several dispensaries...she generally buys 2-3 oz. at a time...front page headlines where we come from...
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Comment #4 posted by Toker00 on December 21, 2001 at 15:45:16 PT
What a si ck article, john wayne.
Another blind supporter of the drug war. Hitler would be proud of this dude.Peace. Realize, then Legalize.
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Comment #3 posted by john wayne on December 21, 2001 at 14:03:20 PT
but the media promotes drugs!
thereby protecting terrorist drug dealers.according to this columnist here:
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Comment #2 posted by Sam Adams on December 21, 2001 at 10:32:59 PT
I hear ya
I continue to be amazed at the way the media operates off in some different plane of existence. Why do the police get so much credibility? The suggestion that drug traffickers are going to get off at the airport and ride the subway out with their stash is most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. Absolutely absurd. These moronic editors have the naivety of a bunch of 5th graders. How can you possibly even consider that assertion? Could it be ANY more transparent that cops just want to harass the MILLIONS of cannabis users in the Bay Area, to justify their budgets, and avoid difficult investigative work like chasing down leads and researching violent crime cases?  
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Comment #1 posted by CorvallisEric on December 21, 2001 at 08:09:05 PT
I wish these people would talk less about "civil liberties" and "constitutional rights" - concepts which just don't resonate as much with Middle Americans as they do with newspaper editors - and instead talk more about whether or not anything good is accomplished by the whole stinking War-on-you-know-who. The important point is that (if I read correctly) the ONLY thing found was marijuana, all but once in trivial amounts.
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