Cop At Center Of Doughnut Glaze Drug Saga Is Disciplined

By McCarton Ackerman 02/13/17

In 2015, the officer arrested a man after mistaking doughnut glaze for methamphetamine. 

Image: 
Policeman holding donut.

The Orlando cop who had trouble differentiating doughnut glaze from illicit drugs—leading to a false arrest in December 2015—has been formally disciplined.

The Orlando Police Department determined that Cpl. Shelby Riggs-Hopkins did not act in bad faith, but gave her a written reprimand for making a false arrest, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

However, she was faulted for arresting 65-year-old Daniel Rushing on a methamphetamine possession charge when she believed the substance in his vehicle was amphetamine. Riggs-Hopkins told investigators that she wrote the statute number for meth on the arrest report because she couldn’t find the number for amphetamine.

Rushing was pulled over for a traffic violation, but Riggs-Hopkins believed that a “rock like substance on the floor board” of his vehicle was crack cocaine. She also noted in the arrest report that her “11 years of training and experience as a law enforcement officer” brought her to this conclusion.

Rushing insisted that the substance was doughnut glaze, but the roadside drug testing kit that the officer used twice recorded a positive result for methamphetamine. He was arrested and bonded himself out after 10 hours.

But the internal investigation determined that Riggs-Hopkins used a testing kit for cocaine and not amphetamine. She was also unaware that when she did use the correct amphetamine kit, proper protocol mandated she conduct a second test with an identical kit to confirm the result. She told the investigator that “at the time, I believed I was using the test properly.”

Several weeks later, a state crime lab tested some of the doughnut glaze and determined it was not an illegal substance. The charges against Rushing were dropped, but he filed a lawsuit last October against the city of Orlando and the Safariland Group, which produces the kits Riggs-Hopkins used, seeking $15,000 in damages.

Deputy Chief Orlando Rolon confirmed that the department hadn’t trained any of its officers on how to use the roadside testing kits. Last September, Police Chief John Mina ordered that every officer on payroll receive this training. The police department reported earlier this month that 737 officers have been formally trained so far.

But even when officers use roadside drug testing kits properly, some of them can still be faulty. Several $2 drug tests have led to numerous unnecessary arrests and jail stints across the country, with many recording positive results for illicit drugs on dozens of compounds ranging from household cleaners to acne medication.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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