DOJ Auditors Question Federal Drug Agents’ “Cold Consent” Stops


The Drug Enforcement Administration needs to do a better job with the potentially sensitive “cold consent” stops made at mass transit locations, the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) warns in a new report, says McClatchy Newspapers. Noting the potential for “civil rights concerns,” including racial profiling, OIG called for more data and better training. One problem, auditors say, is that DEA agents haven't been collecting demographic information on the people they stop. “Without this information the DEA cannot assess whether they are conducted in an unbiased manner,” OIG noted.

Prompted by complaints by two African-American women resulting from DEA-initiated encounters at an airport, the auditors examined the practice of cold consent encounters. These can occur when an agent approaches an individual based on no particular behavior, or based on the officer's perception that the person shows characteristics indicative of drug trafficking. The officer asks for consent to speak with the individual and, if the agent thinks it warranted, seeks consent to search their belongings. OIG said DEA supervisors and managers “questioned the effectiveness of these encounters.”

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