Channel 19

Todd Dills

If you’re carrying baking soda on the truck …

| November 28, 2016

You might do well to keep it in the original container, if only to avoid it initially being mistaken for something illicit. If you get past that initial perception stage with a law enforcement officer, the baking soda may well test positive for cocaine …

This is not a bag of cocaine.

This is not a bag of cocaine.

Apparently, law enforcement around the country are using a very cheap ($2, reportedly) quick-ID kit to test substances for narcotics. The recent case of a military-haul team at Fort Chaffee, Ark., well illustrates the kit’s apparent penchant for false-positives. According to this story on KATV, truckers Gale Griffin and Wendell Harvey (a former police officer in Fort Wayne, Ind., himself) were pulled in for a routine inspection at the gates into Fort Chaffee, when personnel identified bags of white powder they suspected for cocaine. Turned out it was just baking soda, which Griffin buys in bulk given she uses the versatile substance “for everything,” she told the reporters.

Nonetheless, the quick-ID kits showed it tested positive for cocaine — multiple times. Griffin and Harvey then spent the better part of the summer (two months in total) in jail, losing their truck, their work and making for a difficult bounceback when, finally, more extensive tests were done and they were released. It took another couple months to get their truck back from Arkansas impound, too.

KATV’s broadcast follows, a false-positive cautionary tale truckers would do well to heed — any officers in the audience, too.

As KATV’s attendant story notes, it’s not just baking soda delivering false positives, either:

Around the country there have been instances of candy confused for meth, vitamins identified as amphetamines, and tortilla flour testing positive as cocaine. In Florida, the Department of Law Enforcement Lab Systems found 21 percent of the substances that tested positive for meth in the field gave a negative result in the crime lab.

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