July 24, 2024

Letter to the Editor: Here comes Fido

I’ve come to the conclusion that our law enforcement agencies should expand their collection of specialized mutts. They have an important function in our modern world, they being the mutts.

Dog lovers of all kinds should be particularly pleased with the notion. One can catch the national dog show on PBS occasionally and I have never seen a category for police dogs. This is an outrage. Someone needs to contact the American Kennel Club (AKC) about this.

The Newton Police Department has what we now call a “canine officer” — a cop with a dog. This officer drives around town with his canine and upon request will go to the assistance of another officer who has pulled over a motorist for some traffic violation, remove the canine from the patrol car and prance it around the vehicle which has been stopped for the traffic violation, you know like not having a current registration or going 30 in a 25.

The purpose of this, of course, is “drugs.” We are looking for drugs — illegal drugs. Now since we know that about a third of the population uses marijuana and another third use methamphetamine, traffic stops become not just another ticket-writing affair, but a whole lot of fun for most of the department that happens to be on duty at that given time.

Our Supreme Court, following most other courts, has declared that a “dog sniff” is not a search so you don’t have to have any specific reason to call the dog guy to have a “dog sniff.” All very handy. So even though the dog is in fact searching for a smell of illicit drugs, it is not a search. Interesting isn’t it? A search is not a search because the court says it’s not a search.

So simply for the edification of the public, which is becoming more and more necessary it seems, if you get stopped by law enforcement you are subject to a “dog sniff.” The problem is, we don’t have as many dogs as we need. Every traffic stop should include a “dog sniff.” And if Fido should sniff something illegal (rental cars are a good bet), out you come while the police rummage through your vehicle; they might even decide to handcuff you while the search is happening. If Fido “hits” on your car, it’s now officially a legal reason for a search — a real search where complete strangers are rummaging around inside your car looking for something to allow them to take you to jail and impound your vehicle. It’s fun for everybody.

And so in conclusion, I vote for more drug dogs for the City of Newton. Any concerned citizen with his or her animus against everything illegal should contact their city representative for increasing the budget for “canine units.” Every time we see an officer pulling over a vehicle for some traffic violation, we should see Fido prancing around, sniffing out illegal drugs.

Richard E. H. Phelps II