Never Get Busted: Understanding Police Drug Dogs
The world of police canines (K-9s) has been shrouded in secrecy and mythology since the first drug-smelling pooch was released to battle drugs in 1969. Authoritarian and tyrannical governments have used highly trained search dogs since the Nazi regime. This article is the first in depth report made available to the public to help lift this heavily guarded shroud, and in it you will learn:
• Why dogs are the preferred law enforcement animals for detecting odors
• Exactly how drug dogs are trained to seek out and find marijuana
• Critical errors made by K-9 teams
• How police manipulate dogs to false alert in order to conduct a vehicle search
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Barry Cooper, ex-narcotics officer in Texas. I recently released a DVD that has gained worldwide attention because it teaches citizens secret law enforcement tactics that will greatly reduce their chances of going to jail for marijuana. It’s called “Never Get Busted Again Volume 1: Traffic Stops” and will be followed up with more volumes to address other situations. During my eight-year narcotics career, I made more than 800 drug arrests, raided over 100 homes across Texas, bought and sold kilograms of cocaine undercover, trained 500+ drug dog teams, and taught narcotics officers at various police academies how to do the same. I have worked joint operations with every agency imaginable including the ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms), DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), US Customs, US Border Patrol, and the US Military. During these endeavors I became known as an expert in the field of drug detection and police K-9s, and am now releasing this information to you.
Before we discuss the training methods of K-9s, we must first take a short class in the K-9’s ability to detect odors. Dogs have about 25 times more olfactory (smell) receptors than humans. These receptors occur in special sniffing cells deep in a dog’s snout and are what allow a dog to “out-smell” humans. Dogs can sense odors at concentrations nearly 100 million times lower than humans can. Here’s a comparison to help you appreciate the vast difference in olfactory ability between humans and dogs: if all the sensory epithelia (skin tissue) in the average dog’s nose were laid out flat, it would cover an area of about 450 square feet, and contained within this nasal tissue are more than 200 million scent receptors, some 15 million of which have infrared capability. That means a dog can literally smell heat! If a human’s scent sensitive skin tissues were laid out flat, it would only cover about two square feet and contain less than five million scent receptors, none of which exhibit infrared capability. Also, in the brain of the average dog, more than 12 percent of the cerebral tissue is devoted to processing olfactory information. In humans, less than one percent of the brain is devoted to the same. Tests have proven dogs can detect one drop of liquid in a fifty-five gallon barrel of water, and some tests suggest dogs can even smell cancer cells.
Dogs can also separate odors, and that makes them a formidable weapon in the unconstitutional war on the privacy of the US citizen: the “War on Drugs”. When teaching other police this principle of odor separation I would begin by stating, “Dogs smell like we see.” For example: when presented with a bowl of stew, humans see each individual ingredient – i.e. potatoes, carrots, and onions – but can smell only one odor, that of delicious stew. A dog, however, cannot see very well; images are black and white with no depth perception. But they smell like we see, separating mixed odors, so they smell the potato, carrots, onion, pepper, salt, and even the container holding the stew! Everything has an odor that dogs can pick up on, even when mixed with other smells. This is why masking odors does not work. While inspecting loads of seized marijuana, I always noticed the smugglers wrapped pounds of pot in elaborate mixtures in an attempt to fool the dogs. I have found pot wrapped in plastic, layered next in mustard, followed by a tinfoil layer, smeared with grease, re-wrapped with more plastic and finally blanketed with scented dryer sheets and dropped into coffee grounds! A cop dog can easily separate all these odors with a few sniffs, and is communicating with his “handler” cop at all times. If the dog could talk, it might say, “I smell plastic, mustard, tinfoil, grease, dryer sheets, coffee, and marijuana!” The dog alerts to the marijuana, and that’s when people get busted.
Some police, however, fail to properly guide the drug dog during an “air sniff” of a vehicle’s exterior. After interviewing captured cartel members I learned they had great confidence in their masking techniques because they had seen US Customs and Border Patrol walk their dogs past a trunk full of sticky Mexican bricks without alerting. It must have been the excellent packaging, right? No. Those people drew an inaccurate conclusion from an accurate observation. The truth is – and many expert K-9 trainers agree – that only one out of ten K-9 teams in America are efficient enough to reliably detect contraband. Said another way, most K-9 teams in the US just suck at their job, so the load of green slipped past the police because of a poorly trained dog, not because of any special masking efforts used by the smugglers. Another reason contraband is undetected by dogs is the handler’s failure to present the drug detecting dog to permeating “scent cones” that emanate from the marijuana’s hiding spot.
The permeation scent cone principle can be understood by answering this question: “How does a police dog smell through a metal gas tank, through gasoline, through plastic PVC pipe, and detect the marijuana stashed inside?” Well, dogs cannot smell through anything, but rather, odors permeate from everything, creating a scent cone outside any and all containers. It is generally accepted by working dog trainers – such as those in the military, the Department of Defense, US Customs, and police services – that over a period of time, scent emanates from a static location up and outwards in a conical configuration called a scent cone, which can be distorted or influenced by heat, moisture, air currents, sunlight, shade and topographical features. You see, the transfer of smell is an exchange of actual molecules in the air, not a gas or vapor. Odor is the detectable (i.e. “smellable”) evidence of molecular movement from solids and liquids into the atmosphere. To illustrate this principle during K-9 academies, I would place tuna fish in a plastic baggie and allow the students to take a whiff of the sealed bag. The fish odor could not be detected at first. As decomposition hastens, the molecules move faster, and the smell becomes more rank and offensive. That’s why later in the day, when the bag of tuna was passed around again, the smell was easily detected; the tuna molecules had passed through the pores of the plastic fabric of the baggie, creating an odor outside the bag. The very same thing happens when hiding your stash: the odor (airborne molecules) of marijuana eventually passes through – or permeates from – the hiding spot, leaving a detectable scent cone near the contraband source. This is why a dog can alert cops to marijuana, even when its floating in a fuel tank, because over time the odors create a scent cone outside the automobile of metal, gasoline, PVC pipe and marijuana. The dog will alert to the marijuana smell.
So, when traveling, put your marijuana is an airtight container made of metal or dense plastic (Tupperware) just before you leave in your car. It takes time, heat, motion and vibration to develop a scent cone that rises from its source. Keep your joints hidden high up above your head and near the centre of your vehicle. Weed attached to the bottom of a car, or by the bumper, is directly in the smell zone of a K-9 – a bad place to hide your stash. And of course, never have joints or roaches out in the open (obviously), or in your ashtray or the glove compartment, which are the first places investigated during a brief consenting search.
Now that we understand how a K-9 separates odors, we can examine how they are trained. The first thing to remember is it is easy to train a drug dog, but hard to find the right dog to train. Police like to start with a K-9 at least one year old that hasn’t grown out of the puppy stage of extreme energy, and has an insane drive to chase thrown objects. Most dogs have this drive when they are young, but it decreases with age. You’ve seen the type of dog that doesn’t stop jumping up and down enthusiastically even in 100-degree weather, as his slobbery, gnawed ball is thrown over and over again; the dog with puppy-like energy and an endless desire to play fetch – cops want a grown pooch with those characteristics.
Once the dog with a desirable eagerness is chosen, the trainer simply scents a toy with marijuana and the training begins. The ball, which has many different odors, is thrown into tall grass and allowed to settle before the new K-9 cadet is released with a command of “find it!” The dog will locate the ball using its nose to seek out the odors attached to it. By repeating this process, the dog learns to associate the toy with marijuana. When a baggie of marijuana is hidden in a drawer and the dog passes the scent cone, the dog thinks his toy is nearby and begins to scratch near the location. To encourage a stronger scratch, the handler begins using verbal commands such as, “Get it, get it, get it – get it out of there!” This training process is very easy, resulting in most dogs learning to alert on the scent of marijuana in one day.
The harder and more critical part of training that is overlooked by most K-9 teams is teaching the new marijuana-detecting dog to not alert on ball, human or any other odors attached to the marijuana-scented toy. Let’s go back to the zip-loc baggie of marijuana placed in the drawer: the K-9 smells marijuana and a plastic baggie, so the handler should train the dog to not alert on zip-lock bags because they are not contraband. The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled the alert of a certified trained police dog is probable cause for a search, but our courts should be alarmed that most active police K-9s alert on tennis balls, plastic baggies and handler odors because little or no discrimination training is conducted to keep the K-9 focused on contraband alone. Thus, you could be searched because a dog alerted on legal items in your vehicle that it associates with marijuana.
Let’s discuss how unscrupulous police officers use these drug-detecting animals to illegally search your car by using false alerts. When pulled over by the police, the driver does have the right to refuse consent to search their vehicle. Upon hearing a refusal to allow a search, police have the right to bring a K-9 out to conduct a non-invasive air sniff of your auto exterior. But if the trained drug dog alerts on your auto, the police can then search without your permission. Knowing this, police who maintain suspicion that you have narcotics will often command their dogs to false alert if the K-9 hasn’t indicated the presence of drugs during the legitimate outside air search of your car. A false alert is done simply by whispering the ball-fetch command, “Get it, get it – get it out of there,” which triggers the dog to begin scratching. Now that the dishonest handler has a visible K-9 alert for all to see he announces, “My trained drug detector dog has alerted to the odor of a narcotic, so we will now search your car without your permission.” If the cops find drugs during the search the police claim the K-9 is accurate, but if no drugs are found the police claim the dog “must have alerted to residual drug odors”. Either way, the unsuspecting motorist loses.
During thousands of hours of formal police training, I was bombarded with state and local laws and taught how to use these laws to jail American citizens, but during all that training I never had an instructor ever speak of the United States Constitution and its importance regarding police conduct. How strange, to be a fully licensed “peace officer” and have no idea what the Constitution said or meant – only being told about laws and how to use them against Americans! I slowly became disenchanted with law enforcement and realized the importance of maintaining the integrity of America’s fundamental laws. I was very troubled by my years of police work, willingly trampling citizens’ guaranteed protection against unreasonable searches and arrests as outlined in the 4th Amendment. My first whistle-blowing act can be seen when I explain what you have read here in the K-9 portion of my movie. Viewers witness old videos of me making pull-over busts and searches for marijuana, but also see a trained drug dog being taught how to false alert. As far as we know, this is the first time a drug dog has been filmed false alerting for the public to witness! My efforts to expose police abuses of power generated calls from criminal defense attorneys around the US, asking me to review the videos of K-9 searches that put their clients behind bars. Before long, I was testifying as an expert witness regarding these breaches of the 4th Amendment.
In my first attempt to expose these K-9 secrets in court, the DEA made an effort to block my testimony by faxing a highly sensitive document to a civilian in an attempt to harm my credibility. The information contained in that report outlines an operation I was involved with and compromised the safety of citizens named in the document. The DEA is conniving and ruthless, especially when they have a personal grudge against you. The underhanded attempt worked on the first case, but failed on the second; I testified as an expert witness in Texas State District Court during an evidence suppression hearing. The Court released their ruling but the wording of the order has not been made available yet, so even though we know the judge suppressed the evidence (meaning we won), we’re not sure if it was because of the K-9’s false alert, or the unreasonable amount of time it took for the K-9 to arrive to the scene. Either way, we kept a non-violent man from going to jail by testifying that police K-9 handlers can and do abuse the amazing odor-detecting skills of dogs to breach the 4th Amendment.
Police K-9 academies across the US are now alerting their officers to stop the long-time illegal behavior of inducing false alerts, or face the possibility of being exposed in court by one of their very own ex-instructors – me. I am currently retained as an expert witness in a federal civil rights suit involving a physically handicapped man who was handcuffed after a police dog was influenced to false alert. A search of the vehicle resulted in no drugs being found, but left part of the elderly gentleman’s arm permanently paralyzed. We will soon be adding a page to our website that will show the actual videos of these two false alerts, my testimony in court, and the Judge’s decision. The new web page will also contain footage of genuine K-9 alerts that could not be fought against in court.
Understanding how a K-9 police dog behaves is helpful in protecting your stash and freedom by eluding police detection and staying out of jail. Even though dogs can be menacing and are used against citizens by police, please respect these extremely sensitive animals and remember that it’s not the dog out to hurt you – it’s the police officer and dog handler that pose a threat to your liberty.
Be smart, and stay safe!