Pubdate: Sat, 31 Dec 2016
Source: Blade, The (Toledo, OH)
Copyright: 2016 The Blade


Sgt. Kurt Beidelschies of the Ohio State Highway Patrol walks to his
cruiser holding a truck driver's log books that will be examined for
discrepancies after a drug-sniffing dog "alerted" to the presence of drugs
on the truck along I-70 in Madison County.

Lt. Robert Sellers of the Ohio State Highway Patrol explains how his
agency's new focus on stopping criminal activity along with its
traditional role of traffic safety has led to record drug seizures in
2016, including a variety of drugs due for disposal.

Trooper Mike Wilson of the Ohio State Highway Patrol leads his
drug-sniffing dog partner "Pluto," a Dutch shepherd, past a truck stopped
on I-70 in Madison County on Tuesday.

COLUMBUS - The Ohio State Highway Patrol says the agency's new anti-drug
emphasis is paying off with record seizures of heroin, opiates and other
illegal substances.

Troopers confiscated 156 pounds of heroin in 2016, a 290 percent increase
from 2015, along with record amounts of illegal painkillers and

The agency is building on a plan developed in 2011 to bring troopers into
the state's efforts to reduce Ohio's addictions epidemic, said Patrol Lt.
Robert Sellers.

"Our No. 1 job is to protect the public," Sellers said. "It's to preserve
life, and especially with the drug epidemic to stop the drugs wreaking
havoc on our communities and neighborhoods."

Last year, Ohio saw a record 3,050 overdose deaths, a 20 percent increase,
with many of those attributed to painkillers and heroin abuse.

The patrol has doubled the number of drug-sniffing dogs to 34 statewide
and now trains every trooper in techniques for locating illegal drugs.
Troopers are told "to look beyond the license plate" during traffic stops
for signs of criminal activity.

The agency has elevated the search for crime along highways to the same
level as traffic safety, Sellers said.

A couple of days past Christmas, patrol Sgt. Kurt Beidelschies kept a
watchful eye on drivers headed west along Interstate 70 on the west side
of Columbus.

Most drivers react the same way to seeing a trooper parked in a highway
median, Beidelschies says: they look over, tap their brakes and then check
their mirrors to see what the trooper does next.

What Beidelschies looks for is what he calls "the 1 percent of drivers
that do something different." That includes a sudden lane change upon
spying the trooper or, upon being pulled over, continue to appear nervous
even if they receive only a warning.

Beidelschies and fellow troopers investigated two different truck drivers
that day after a drug-sniffing dog "alerted" to the presence of drugs. But
nothing was found other than inconsistent driving logs.

The challenge is dealing with the obvious influx of drugs that's fueling
the addictions epidemic, Beidelschies said.

"So it is just going out every day doing your job to the best of your
ability and trying your best to make your communities a safer place," he

The efforts haven't been without hiccups. In May, a Lorain County judge
suppressed as evidence more than 200 pounds of marijuana seized by
troopers from a motorist along the Ohio Turnpike.

Judge John Miraldi said he was struck that half of a two-trooper team's
seizure of drugs in the past 12 months involved drugs found in cars with
out-of-state plates.

"These facts alone present concerns to this court that perhaps this 'team'
so charged and so successful, may be using traffic stops as a pretext for
searches and seizures," wrote Judge John Miraldi. The prosecutor appealed
with a decision pending.

Defense attorney Ian Friedman, representing the defendant in the case,
calls the patrol's efforts well-intended but subject to overreaching.

"We really see it with baseless stops that are nothing more than a pretext
to have the vehicles and occupants searched for drugs," Friedman said.

Sellers said the patrol's efforts - which have become a national model for
other agencies - will continue and that even more drug-sniffing dogs will
be added, with plans for a permanent police dog training facility.

"We know we're not getting it all," Sellers said. "But we've done
everything we can to get everything we can find."
- ---
MAP posted-by: