OSS: K-9 Drug Searches and Racial Profiling

By: Meghan Dywer
By: Meghan Dywer

ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- Rockford Police are trying to protect themselves from accusations of racial profiling by keeping track of when they call in the dogs. It's because of a new law that requires police to keep data some may find questionable.

An investigation by 23 News discovered more than half the time a K-9 is used during a traffic stop they don't find drugs.

Starting January 1, police have been forced to collect more information on dog sniff searches.

Keep in mind we only have data for the first three months of this year, but so far it shows more often than not drug sniffs don't turn up any drugs.

Through the end of March, 67 people had their cars sniffed for drugs during a traffic stop. 38 were white, 25 were black, 5 were Hispanic, and one was a Native American. No drugs or paraphernalia were found in the majority of those cars. Police say it's because the K-9-s will smell drugs giving police probable cause to search the car, but most of the time the drugs are already gone.

K-9 Handler Durk Garcia said, "A lot of times there will be remnants, you know you'll find a little shake in a glove box or you know stuff like that so you know there's odor there but not really anything you can arrest anybody for."

The numbers also show blacks are more likely to get searched and Hispanics are less likely to be searched--remember this is only based on 67 total sniffs

Dogs are used in two different situations. If a K-9 handler has stopped a car he must have reasonable suspicion that there are drugs in the car to use the dog. Other times, officers will call in the dogs to sniff around the car during a regular traffic stop, but they can't search the car unless the dog "alerts".

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