ANKENY, Iowa — Ankeny’s police chief is apologizing after a video surfaced showing an officer trying to search a motorist’s car because, according to the officer, everyone who plays Frisbee golf smokes pot.
The video, which was taken by the motorist, starts with the officer giving that unknown motorist a warning about driving without headlights. Then the officer begins his interrogation. “You play frisbee golf?” the officer asks. “I do actually. I play out at Heritage (Park)” the motorist replies. So the officer says, “OK. I need you to answer me a question. Why is it that everybody that plays Frisbee golf smokes weed?” “No, it’s not everybody,” the motorist insists. “It’s everybody, man. You can’t tell me you never smoked weed,” the officer says. The motorist replies, “I’m not gonna tell you one way or another.” So the officer says, “See, there you go. How much weed do you have in the car today?”
The driver tells the officer he doesn’t have any marijuana. So the officer says, “You understand you’re free to go and everything but you wouldn’t have a problem with me looking through your car?” The motorist denies the request saying, “I actually would. Just because I have a disc golf bag doesn’t mean that every disc golfer does have weed.” The officer says, “So you have weed in the car then is what you’re saying?” The motorist answers, “No I would say I have a problem with you searching my car because you’re profiling me based on being a disc golfer.”
Eventually, the officer lets the driver go.
Drake Law Professor Robert Rigg says the officer broke the law by trying to search the car during an equipment violation stop. “What the officer did after that was try to extend that stop into a general search of the defendant’s car, or the individual’s car. That’s not permissible anymore,” Rigg says, adding that if the driver had allowed the officer to search the car, and the officer found something illegal, chances are that evidence would be thrown out of court. “The Iowa Supreme Court has held that under the Iowa constitution you can’t convert an equipment violation stop into a general search. and any consent that would have been given would have been invalid in any event.”
The city of Ankeny did release a statement saying, in part, “The officer engages the driver in a line of questioning that is foolish and not representative of the Ankeny Police Dept.`s training or interactions with the public. This verbal exchange did not meet the level of professionalism expected of Ankeny police officers. Ankeny Police Chief Gary Mikulec respectfully apologizes for the officer`s demeaning statement.”
As for the motorist, Rigg says, “I think the young man did exactly what he was supposed to do. He did not admit to smoking marijuana. He didn’t answer that question at all and he has the right not to answer that question. And he has the right to say, look, if you want to ask me questions, why don’t you call my lawyer.”