Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Drug Money to Fund K-9 Unit

Just some local news from the Morning Sentinel

FARMINGTON -- One of Franklin County's three police dogs is nearing retirement and county commissioners Tuesday agreed to set up a reserve fund with drug forfeiture money to use for the county's K-9 program.

Under law, to keep money seized as a result of a drug conviction, municipalities have to use it for training and equipment, Sheriff Dennis Pike said.

Commissioners approved a request from Franklin County sheriff's Cpl. Nathan Bean and Deputy David Rackliffe -- both K-9 handlers -- to transfer $4,500 from the county's surplus, or undesignated fund balance, to the new forfeiture account.

The money could be used to buy a new police dog, which costs about $4,500, or for specialized training in drug detection and equipment.

Ben, the German shepherd handled by Bean, is 10.

The other two dogs are handled by Rackliffe and Deputy Chris Chase, and only Rackliffe's is a certified drug dog.

"Our biggest source of revenue is our K-9 unit," Pike said.

So the money they steal from you when they violate your rights? Oh, that just goes back into the K-9 fund, so they can violate other people's rights. How convenient!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Woody's Take

From The Daily Bulldog:

Ah, springtime in college... who can forget those glorious days of trying to concentrate on a textbook with your back against a big tree and your face upturned toward the warm April sun? Or the frisbees and the whiffle ball games and the early morning walks to class in shirtsleeves and sandals in the balmy springtime air? And who can forget the drug dogs?

You know, the drug dogs. The drug dogs requested by campus security to make sure that no student could possibly be committing the unthinkable -- smoking marijuana at a time when he should be studying 24 hours a day. The drug dogs that can feret out that single joint of marijuana which, under current federal law, will cost even the best student every bit of her student aid for the next 12 months. (That the same student could be convicted of one or two or even three OUI charges without any effect on her student aid isn't the point of this editorial).

It happened here at the University of Maine at Farmington less than two weeks ago. It happened, as I understand it, when a drug dog was brought onto campus to sniff his way around vehicles and people at an event sponsored by a UMF student group, Students for a Sensible Drug Policy. Put aside the fact that a court could well find that this kind of selective scrutiny by campus security violated this group's free speech rights. (That meritorious potential lawsuit is not the point of this editorial either).

My wife and I moved to Farmington 22 years ago, in no small part, because there was a vibrant college like UMF so closely integrated with the town. For most of those 22 years I have coached UMF rugby players and taught UMF students about the law and personally taken advantage of many of the cultural offerings the college generously shares with all of us.

More than anything, I think it is my great affection for UMF that causes me to write this now. Drug dogs patrolling the campuses at Bates or Bowdoin or up in Orono would unquestionably offend me, but somehow they would not seem quite so offensive. That the "war on drugs" would be so aggressively and foolishly waged at UMF, for no reason whatsoever other than the fact that a group of students want to explore a more "sensible" drug policy, seems incredibly ironic.

And don't get me wrong about dogs. I love them at home and on the farm and in the law office. My dog Mike and I even attended our first UMF faculty meeting yesterday. Dogs doing police work can sometimes bother me more.

As a college-age student back in 1970 I visited the Berlin Wall before it was torn down. The narrow strip of "No man's land" that ran like a long ribbon between between the two Germanys was studded with land mines and barbed wire, but most forboding of all to me were the vicious looking guard dogs walking the perimeter with their armed East German handlers.

Maybe you're right, I probably am going too far. This isn't East Berlin and it's not 1970. But when I heard last week about this ill-conceived decision at UMF, I thought of those East German guard dogs nevertheless. Without very good cause, we don't need drug dogs patrolling the UMF campus.

Monday, May 7, 2007

My Letter to the Editor...

From the Daily Bulldog:

Security at Event Excessive

On Friday, April 27th, a local organization held an event. The University of Maine at Farmington's chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy put on a concert in coordination with UMF's Spring Fling, a week long organization of events. The concert was held in the Fitness and Recreation Center on-campus, from midnight to 3AM. There was reasonable debate before the concert was put on about security and what would be the best option. Other members of SSDP and I really saw no need for the excessive amount of security Campus Safety wanted us to have, but when braced with an ultimatum of having the event with plenty of security or not having the event at all, we decided to put it on with the amount of security Campus Safety deemed necessary.

Not to my surprise, a day before the concert, I received word that Campus Safety was going to have the Farmington Police Department bring their K-9 Unit. There were at least five police officers at this event and no more than sixty to seventy people attending. Separate security included student security and campus safety. In my opinion, this is extremely excessive. To my knowledge, two women were summonsed for possession of cannabis and one man was arrested for public intoxication.

Campus Safety has no defined security policy and hence never really has to specify how much security will be anywhere. I am an out-of-stater from Rhode Island, but going to school in Maine has made me realize how much Mainers value their civil rights and liberties. This event sent a message to me and many of the members of my organization that slowly but surely those civil right and liberties are being stripped away from us one by one and the biggest proponents are the Drug War and the impeding police state. Please, citizens, realize what the federal government is doing to us every day. Wake up.

Mike Simpson
University of Maine at Farmington's Students for Sensible Drug Policy