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In a 6-2 decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Illinois police, who used a drug-sniffing dog to search a man's vehicle based solely on the fact that he acted nervous. The high court said the privacy intrusion was minimal.
So what does that mean for local K-9 units? According to one handler, not a whole lot. They say while dogs are a vital part of their operation, it is also vital to make sure they are used in a fair manner.
"There's a big need for dogs," according to a member of the Brazos County Narcotics Unit, who asked to remain anonymous because of his job. "There are just more reliable than what you can see. They can find what might be hidden."
A first-hand demonstration from Max, the anonymous handler's dog, proves they can find drugs hidden just about anywhere. After hiding a trace amount of marijuana in various spots on a vehicle, Max was able to sniff out each and every plant in a matter of seconds.
According to the handler, he and his four-legged partner are called on about twice a week, but those calls only come after there is enough evidence to warrant a dog search.
By law, a K-9 can only be used to search a vehicle, not a person. However, the handler says if someone driving with drugs thinks they can get away with it by keeping it on their person, they should think again.
"If a person has something on them, especially if they have it in their pockets or whatever, usually the scent is going to be somewhere in the vehicle, whether it be on the seat or the door handle," he said.
As for the Twin Cities, College Station Police has no drug-sniffing dogs, but if they need one, they borrow one of Bryan Police's two. A handler at BPD said the Supreme Court ruling could lead them to at least consider changes to their policy. But for now, they say their procedure will stay the same -- establish reasonable suspicion, and only detain someone as long as necessary.
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