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Landlord's drug-related arrest raises questions

While there is a war on drugs here in Georgia, it often stretches beyond this state's borders. Interstate drug crime typically involves federal investigators, and can result in federal charges. In addition, the state of Georgia has its own drug crimes that are investigated and enforced by local authorities. While it might be common sense for these two factions to work closely together, that is not always the case -- and sometimes, people trying to do the right thing become unwitting targets of overzealous police.

That appears to have happened in one case recently and it has some questioning police investigation and communication.

The story apparently began in early October when federal and local authorities raided a rental home, arresting three tenants in connection with suspected immigration and drug violations. The landlord of the property said he had cooperated with the authorities in the matter, including allowing officials to search the premises.

Sometime later, the landlord and his wife went back to the home to prepare it for new renters. But when they entered, they say they found the house had been broken into and holes had been punched into some walls. And in one hole, they found what the landlord suspected to be bags of methamphetamine. That was the drug the previous tenants had been suspected of possessing.

The landlord says he contacted a federal agent who had been involved in the previous case and followed his instructions to call 911. He says he and his family then left the house to wait for police. However, when the landlord's family returned, the local police began to question them and eventually arrested the man and wife for allegedly tampering with drug evidence. The couple spent two nights in jail before posting bond, and will have to go to court.

The whole thing has left a bitter taste in the mouths of the landlord couple. Local police have refused to comment to the media about the case, saying only that it's a federal matter. But the charges are local and federal officials say they're not involved.

This isn't the way the system is supposed to work. Police are bound by the Constitution of the United States to follow procedures to make sure that individual rights and liberties are not violated. When they fail in this effort, it erodes the confidence we need to have in law enforcement.

Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Clayton landlord arrested after discovering meth in rental home," Christopher Seward, Nov. 1, 2012

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