The war on drugs is probably been the single biggest government power grab in history. By declaring an ever expanding list of chemicals illegal the State has created a justification to expand law enforcement both in numbers and in equipment. In addition to expanding the power of its wealth expropriation force, the State has also written the laws in such a way as to better enable law enforcers to expropriate wealth. Consider civil forfeiture. Normally a law enforcement agent can’t just steal your cash or car. But if they claim that cash or your car are in any way possibly tied to a drug crime they can steal it and the burden of proving they weren’t related to a drug crime, a nearly impossible feat, falls onto you.
But the State isn’t the only culprit here. An entire industry has sprung up around helping law enforcement agencies expropriate wealth. One such industry is the manufacturing of field drug testing kits. These kits, which have an extremely dubious record in regards to reliability, give an officer probable cause to kidnap individuals. However, recognizing that the kits are unreliable most agencies will have the tested substance sent to a lab for more rigorous testing. But one agency that doesn’t is the Las Vegas Police Department (LVPD):
A new report from ProPublica and the Las Vegas Review-Journal finds that since the early 1990s, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has been using cheap drug field-test kits to determine whether found substances are illegal. While far too many police agencies have used the kits to determine probable cause for a search, in most cases the substances are later more thoroughly tested at a crime lab. In Las Vegas, the test results were apparently also used as evidence to help prosecutors win convictions.
As Billy Mayes would have said, but wait, there’s more!
All along, though, police and prosecutors knew the tests were vulnerable to error, and by 2010, the police department’s crime lab wanted to abandon its kits for methamphetamine and cocaine. In a 2014 report that Las Vegas police submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice under the terms of a federal grant, the lab detailed how the kits produced false positives. Legal substances sometimes create the same colors as illegal drugs. Officers conducting the tests, lab officials acknowledged, misinterpreted results. New technology was available — and clearly needed to protect against wrongful convictions.
Not only is the LVPD not using more thorough testing measures before brining charges but the department, as do all other departments, knows that the field testing kits are unreliable.
Why would the LVPD rely on unreliable tests to prosecute individuals? If you’ve read my blog for any length of time you already know the answer: law enforcement isn’t about justice, it’s about expropriating wealth from the populace. The whole point of the war on drugs is to give the State yet another method on top of taxes, citations, and permit fees to transfer money from your bank account into its own. But the State wants this expropriation to look legitimate so people don’t see it for the organized criminal gang that it is. To create an illusion of legitimacy the State surrounds its expropriation with a bunch of legal rituals. These rituals make the process of expropriation look impartial and fair.
If you’re charged with a drug crime you have the option of a jury trail. In a jury trail the State must convince 12 jurors that you are actually a very bad person. The process of convincing a jury that you’re a very bad person involves submitting evidence that proves that the glazed doughnut you were eating was actually crystal meth. Since field drug testing kits are biased towards false positives they make excellent evidence, especially when the jurors are selected specifically because they’re entirely ignorant of how the tests work and how unreliable they are.