*Should a Utah couple sue the police department of Fort Chaffee, Arkansas for putting them behind bars for two months over a faulty drug test?
Wendell Harvey and his wife Gale Griffin opened up about their jail experience with KUTV News. They explained how their careers as truck drivers, who transported explosives for the military, came to an end earlier this year when they were falsely accused of cocaine possession.
Their harrowing experience began after traveling to Fort Chaffee, where the couple was pulled over by officer Chuck Bowen and asked about three baggies filled with liquid in their truck. Harvey (who is a former police officer) explained they were baking soda packets to treat his wife’s upset stomach. It was all downhill from there.
“We have no relationship with anyone who deals drugs,” Harvey said. Bowen tested the liquid and determined it was a controlled substance. “He said, ‘You have over $3,000 in cocaine,’” Griffin added. “I told him, ‘I’ve never had two nickels to rub together, are you crazy?’ Then [the police officer] said, ‘I’ve never had two nickels to rub together either, but now I’m the owner of your truck.”
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Harvey and Griffin had their truck seized, arrested and placed on a $10,000 bail. Because they couldn’t afford it, they spent two months in jail, lost their security clearances and reunited with a heavily damaged truck. “I felt cut off from reality; it felt very strange — someplace that doesn’t feel like America to me,” Harvey said.
About his time in jail. “It was just crawling with bugs — it was unbelievably cold, blasting, blasting cold air,” Griffin added.
The charges were later dropped in July when the Public Defender’s office tested the substance and determined it was not cocaine.
The initial drug test was done using an inferior $2 device called the Scott Reagent Field test, that many officers use in the force. “They are not infallible; they are subject to misreading,” Greg Parrish with the public defender’s office said.
“If they did what they did to us, you know — two law-abiding citizens, there’s no telling how many mistakes they’ve made,” Harvey said.
The couple is still looking for work and in danger of losing their home. A GoFundMe was started to help them get back on track repair their truck.