A recent report claims a Safariland drug field test kit identified Krispy Kreme donut icing as methamphetamine. Having consumed too many Krispy Kreme donuts in my lifetime I have to admit that eating more than one Krispy Kreme donut at a time can cause the eater a serious bit of the sugar shakes. But is the Krispy Kreme donut icing meth!? At least one Safariland drug test kit says yes! This adds a whole other meaning to the image of cops and donuts.
Safariland is perhaps the most prolific manufacturer of law enforcement products in the nation. This includes a range of field drug test kits developed by companies acquired by Safariland over the years as a part of their expansion into broader markets. However, after this recent report there is a serious question about the validity of at least one of their methamphetamine field test kits.
Any agency or officer using the kits should be aware of this concern before continuing their use. Law enforcement agencies should evaluate how their officers are trained on using the kits to make sure proper procedures are being followed. In addition, agencies should likely have their State Crime Laboratory evaluate the kit for proper efficacy.
The Orlando Police Mix Up!
A Orlando, Florida man is suing Safariland after he was arrested for possession of methamphetamine during a car stop. According to media reports, the Orlando area citizen had just gone to Krispy Kreme doughnuts and had just finished eating a glazed donut inside of his car when he was stopped by Orlando Police.
During the stop the officer noticed a white substance on the driver’s floorboard. The officer questioned the driver about it, and he explained he had just eaten a donut. Not convinced, the officer had the driver exit the vehicle and seized a couple of white, flaky substances from the driver’s floorboard. Reportedly, a Safariland field test kit was used on the substance and tested positive for methamphetamine. The driver was arrested, transported to the police station, and was held for several hours during the investigation.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement tested the icing and determined the seized items contained “no controlled substances”. The prosecutor quickly dropped the charge. The driver is now suing the Orlando Police Department and Safariland for his false arrest.
The driver’s lawsuit claims the Orlando Police Department did not train the officer properly, and the Safariland test kit was defective or unreliable. As typical for ongoing legal proceedings, neither Orlando or Safariland have made a comment yet.
Safariland Drug Test Kits
Safariland is one of the most respected manufacturers of law enforcement, safety, and personal defense equipment and clothing in the world. Their products are used extensively in the United States and across the globe. The BlueSheepDog Crew has owned, used, or been issued a wide variety of law enforcement products or clothing from Safariland, and have found most to be excellent products.
Safariland owns three drug field testing kit companies. Two are very well-known in law enforcement, while the other is less known and more specific to testing fluid samples from a suspect. The three Safariland drug testing brands are:
So far I have not been able to determine which Safariland brand made the false positive.
During my career I have used NIK and NarcoPouchfield tests extensively. So far I have not had any problems with these test kits, and have made numerous valid arrests and cases based partly upon the results of these tests. The test kits are relatively inexpensive, and officers can be trained on their proper use and test result analysis in less than an hour.
However, I have found many agencies do not perform an official training program on the drug field test kits and this could cause very destructive results. If an officer makes an arrest based on performing the test improperly it places the officer, department, and governing agency at risk of liability in a civil rights violation suit. In addition, having several false positives will begin to tarnish the officer’s and department’s credibility with the prosecuting attorney.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Officers should be fully aware that a field drug test is a presumptive test only! This means that a positive test only indicates the likelihood that the drug tested for is in fact present. A positive field test creates probable cause to arrest and seize in most States, however each reader should check with their local Prosecutor and follow Department directives before taking an enforcement action based on a field test. Once the item is seized, a laboratory should be used to scientifically establish the make-up of the seized substance.)
The training I received at my Department actually occurred about a year after I started on the road. Prior to that time only supervisors were allowed to field test suspected drugs. As the City grew, and our budget did too (remember those days!) we finally were able to stock enough test kits and train officers. My initial training consisted of a supervisor and detective explaining the following:
- Choosing the correct test kit for the suspected drug
- How to place a small portion of the suspected drug into the test kit
- Breaking the acid ampoules in the proper order
- Waiting and/or agitating the test kit the required time
- Evaluating the color at the end of the test for a positive/negative result.
We were also encouraged to read the directions from box containing multiple kits (not the ones on the test kit themselves which only explain the order to break ampoules). In all reality, following the manufacturer instructions should be more than enough to satisfy the requirements of the field test.
Later in my career I was assigned to a HIDTA Drug Task Force. During that time I went to the Regional Crime Laboratory and received instructions from a chemist. The more detailed instruction included all that I had already learned, but also explained the chemical process the kit performs on the suspected drugs, false positives and what causes them, proper analysis, and proper disposal.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: If your agency simply has you place the plastic pinch on the test kit and throw it away, you’re liable to have an exposure to acid – both contact and/or inhalation. These kits use powerful acids to break down the substance to be able to react with the intended controlled substance. After a test kit is completed and photographed, the user should add baking soda or another approved base substance to neutralize the acid. I cannot imagine a Court in this country wanting an actual test kit brought into court as evidence. They understand the dangers and do not want to be exposed themselves. Try bringing a meth lab into Court … photographs should suffice).
If you ever have the opportunity to have a crime lab analyst/chemist provide you training you should do so. This adds to your professional knowledge and the weight of your testimony.
Officers need to be properly trained in using forensic evidence tools. They do not have to be scientists, but they should have training on the proper use and interpretations of forensic tools used. Just like officers must be certified to use a breath alcohol testing instrument, they should have training in the proper use and interpretation of field drug test kits.
At a minimum an officer should be taken through the manufacturer’s instructions from the test kit box. Officers should understand the field test kit is “presumptive” and not an absolute. However, a positive test with a field test kit is sufficient probable cause in most jurisdictions.
The Orlando incident is frustrating because it could have been due to poor training, or poor interpretation of the test, or from a defective test kit. Hopefully more information will come out, though I imagine it will be quite some time due to the pending lawsuit. Until then make sure you know what you’re doing, and if in doubt wait until a proper laboratory can perform confirmation tests.
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