A Skirmish in the Drug War

I drove to Tucson last night with Annie, my daughter, and Sammie, a school friend. We could not leave until the girls had finished the school day. It was a full day because the school was giving them today, the day before Thanksgiving, off completely. We got started about 4 PM. Traffic was starting to get heavy and it was slow going through San Diego. The shortest and fastest route to Tucson from Mission Viejo is down I-5 to I-8 and then east until I-8 intersects with I-10, about 60 miles west of Tucson. The whole trip is about 450 miles and takes us about 7 to 8 hours, usually. I fly most of the time but there were three of us (I would not let Annie drive through the desert at night without an adult), and she wanted her car for the five day holiday.

About 25 miles into Arizona, and about 250 from Tucson, there is a permanent Border Patrol check point. I’ve been through it 50 or 100 times, usually driving the car we were in, a Chevy Trailbrazer (My wife’s car). We’ve always been waived through until last night. Last night there was only one other car waiting (unusual) and the agents had a drug sniffing dog there. I don’t think I’ve seen that before. Anyway, Annie was driving, and after they had asked us where we were born, she started to put the window up and drive on. The agent stopped her and told us to pull into the inspection area. From there, it descended into farce.

They told us to get out of the car and ordered us to walk about 30 feet away and stand in a certain area. Then they took the dog into the car where it rummaged around inside. I asked the officer (They were all about 25 years old) what was going on. He told us that the dog had signaled drugs in our car. I said, “We have dogs. Maybe he smelled them.” The stern faced stocky woman with the dog, gave me her game face and said, “Our dog is trained only to recognize cocaine, heroin or marijuana.” I thought that was a bit of crap but, if she wanted to find out for herself, it was OK with me. After an obviously fruitless serach of the car, the woman came over and ordered Sammie, Annie’s friend to go with her behind the building and, I later found out, grilled her about where the narcotics were in the car. Sammie is pretty innocent. She is the girl whose parents were both killed in a car crash about eight years ago, when she was nine and her sister was six. They are being raised by her Iranian-born grandparents and other family members. She said, “What are narcotics ?” She didn’t know. Annie has the street smarts for both of them. After a while, the woman brought Sammie back and took Annie around behind the building , where she got the same treatment. After they brought her back, another agent (Who looked the youngest of the bunch) came over and again asked us where we were born, and who owned the car, etc. Cleverly, he was testing us to see if we had forgotten our previous answers. Finally, with obvious disappointment, they let us go.

Another day in the unceasing war or drugs; and on common sense. I was going to suggest that their dog needed a nose job but figured levity was not in order at that moment. Out there in the desert at night surrounded by officers whose average age probably exceeded their IQs, we could have disappeared without a trace. Even Sammie said that she had all she could do to keep from smiling at the third degree she was getting from this woman who was convinced we were big time drug smugglers. Their chance for glory was slipping away from them.

I am not a big fan of the Drug War, but legalization is tricky. Marijuana and heroin could be legalized in some fashion. It is amusing, in a sort of black humor way, to see the frenzied effort to prevent any contact with tobacco while marijuana is tolerated with a wink. Cocaine is another matter, because it produces hyperactivity and paranoia, a bad combination. The present War on Drugs has had some benefit in that it has helped make cocaine use socially unacceptable among law-abiding middle class people. Thirty years ago, I was being asked by patients if there was anything risky about using cocaine. Lots of people were doing it and thought it was innocent fun. It isn’t. Heroin has been the stuff that homeless people use but cocaine was, at that time, considered a recreational substance with little or no real danger. That has changed. The whole drug problem is a product of the 60s and the revolt against all standards of behavior. Theodore Dalrymple has written a new book about the destruction of all standards of conduct. He blames a lot of it on John Stuart Mill, the philosopher who attacked the “Victorian” standards of behavior of his day. Dalrymple, a psychiatrist, attributes to this beginning, the modern dogma that “one man’s opinion is as good as another.” From this, of course, we get all the slippery concepts of ethical relativism. “If it feels good do it.” The end result is a war between standards and license. Unfortunately, as we saw last night, the standards side of the conflict is being waged by the clueless.

10 Responses to “A Skirmish in the Drug War”

  1. Brett King says:

    I am a canine handler. My dog is trained in finding explosives. Although canines have an incredible ability to find contraband the animals are not perfect and the interest the dog showed may very well have been your dogs, as you surmised. The dogs are not machines and they are fallible especially if they have a handler who is not committed to constant training. Finding contraband is a learned skill and the canine, like a concert pianist, will decrease in skill without practice and the guidance of a skilled handler who properly trains the animal. It sounds like in this case the dog gave a false indication. I wonder if you had a novice canine handler there.

  2. Mike K says:

    I think these were novices at almost anything they tried. CIndy says she has seen the dog there before and has driven through without incident. Apparently, I was the suspicious one. Well, we know the border is being fiercely defended from grampas and teenaged girls. I thought it was funny that the woman was absolutely certain it couldn’t have been the dogs. I was sorry to ruin their day.

  3. Dana says:

    Considering your appearances and no drugs found, its amazing that the woman gave her dogs rather than you, the benefit of the doubt.

    Interesting info, Brett King.

  4. Eric Blair says:

    Hi Dr. K. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family. I am outraged at your treatment by the authorities. Best to you and yours, and I very much support your efforts on this new blog of yours. VERY best of luck!

  5. Jerry Sobel says:

    I told the police who was selling dope, and when and where and how. Unfortunately the Keylessstoned cops of Santa Monica have too feeble a police force. They don’t even return my calls anymore, as I would call them every few days for the last three years till I gave up. So the people in the rear unit of our building have been merrily selling their dope since I moved here 13 years ago, cheating on wellfare, and all the rest.
    Do you think the Arizona Highway patrol or Tuscon DEA is more interested?

    They aren’t interested in wellfare cheats or section 8 violators. Either Eyether.
    Jerry

  6. We were sitting with family members last night for a post-prandial drink and talking about our experience. One o them told us that he had a dope dealer living next door about 15 years ago in Laguna Niguel. Apparently, he was also a pimp for high class hookers who would stop by the house at all hours. Since the guy living there was fat and ugly, they figured it was all business. Anyway, my brother-in-law called the Laguna Niguel cops and reported all the activity. No interest. He (my brother-in-law) finally sold the house.

  7. James says:

    Not to bee too funky in my first foray in your internets corner (smile), but this type of police behavior is a constant in neighborhoods of poor brown., black, and white folk. Chris Rock has a joke about the police are never able to recognize the difference between black folk who are law abiding and those who are not (wish I could remember it). Also once a theory gets into an officer’s head, that theory becomes the story no matter the evidence to the contrary.

    That said, sorry you and yours were hassled by the police. Never a pleasant experience.

    much peace

  8. James King says:

    Hello…Man i love reading your blog, interesting posts ! it was a great Thursday

  9. I should add that I have another daughter who is an FBI agent. She was outraged when she heard the story as it is against the law for drug agents to treat children under 18 in the fashion my youngest daughter and her friend were treated. I didn’t file a complaint but maybe should have.

  10. P Merkin says:

    Just youngsters enjoying the rush of power, they knew there were no drugs, just a chance to lord it over “citizens”. Remember, it was the kids who ran Maos and Hitlers meat grinders.