Dog Searches Are As Accurate as We Say They Are.

Anybody who has driven from the Geneva/St. Charles area west to DeKalb has seen the billboards for Bradley Olsen.  I see it all the time on my way to the various courthouses and, although I don’t know anything about Mr. Olsen or his disappearance, I do have a passing interest in the case.  No only for my own “I wonder what happened” curiosity, but also because “solving” missing persons cases is often messy and can lead to arrests based on compromised or not-very-reliable evidence.

If you don’t think so, read up on the Mario Casciaro case in McHenry County.  After several years of investigation the government struck a deal with a man (with a lengthy criminal history) who likely threw the death blow in order to convict another man (who, apparently, did not throw a fatal blow or have a similar history) on an “intimidation” theory.  The conviction has caused such a mess that 20/20 has been interviewing people and may be running a story on the case.

Anyhow, the Olsen case is back in the Kane County Chronicle because the investigation into his disappearance is entering its 7th year.  The police continue to follow up on leads and have done several searches when new evidence warrants it:

Police insist that Bradley Olsen’s disappearance is not a cold case. The active investigation involves K-9 searches about three to five times a year. Any time police receive a tip of someone saying they think Bradley Olsen was buried in a certain location or seen in another location, they check it out.
DeKalb police detective Lt. Bob Redel, now the lead investigator on the case, has been involved since the beginning. He believes Bradley Olsen is dead and wants to know how he might have died. There are many people of interest in the case, though Redel declined to specify how many there are and why they are designated as such.
“We need the right person to call us that either saw something or heard something that’s going to lead us to where Brad’s at,” Redel said.

Of course the “right person” is likely someone personally involved in Mr. Olsen’s disappearance who’s screwed up so bad in some other way that he’s willing to possibly incriminate himself on the Olsen case to walk on the new one.

That’s not the part that caught my eye, though.  The part that caught my eye was the comment about using canines to search, and about their accuracy:

In more recent years, police have not found evidence when dogs have searched different areas in the county. Sometimes a dog alerts police to something that may be a clue, but it turns out to be nothing.
“Dogs aren’t perfect,” Redel said.

I read the “sometimes a dog alerts police to something that may be a clue, but it turns out to be nothing.  Dogs aren’t perfect…” and chuckled. Why? Because it’s true. And honest. And likely something you’d never get a cop on the stand to admit to if you were cross examining him in a drug case.

Because, when it comes to dogs searching for drugs, humans, or other contraband in a criminal case, “there is no such thing as a false alert”:

(watch it until the end… seriously)

Nevertheless, hopefully Mr. Olsen’s family will have closure soon and the State’s Attorney’s Office, DeKalb and Maple Park police departments won’t have built a case on unreliable evidence.

Author: matthaiduk

Matt Haiduk is a criminal defense lawyer in Illinois. He loves his dog. And pizza.

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