Susie Rushton: The day I fell foul of the sniffer dog

Urban Notebook
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The Independent Online

Sandy-coloured and irrepressible, the Labrador bounced along the pavement outside West Kensington Tube station. Cute dog, I thought. And young, too – its owner, a lumbering man wearing a navy fleece, could barely control it.

A pound coin in hand for the newspaper I buy every day at the kiosk, I turned into the ticket hall, where a couple of thoughts succeeded each other: there are an awful lot of police in here, and, what is that pushing at my elbow?

A hand fell heavily on my arm. "Excuse me, madam," came a voice, "Could you come over here, please. The dog has detected drugs and we need to search you."

The Labrador squealed. It yapped. Its wet nose was deeply attracted to my body. It was, one of the coppers told me, "reasonable suspicion that you are in possession of illegal drugs."

I must've looked pretty shocked. But then – could there be a grain of cheap hash in my pocket from a decade-old spliff? No, there just couldn't.

I found myself standing next to the ticket barriers surrounded by three fully-uniformed Met police. I was told to keep my arms raised. Their manner was friendly, but firm. They were sure they'd got one.

"What have you got in your hand?" demanded the taller male officer. I showed him the coins.

A second copper wearing rubber gloves performed a forensic examination of the contents of my handbag: tubes of antihistamine cream, bank cards and other breadcrumbed detritus (I almost felt sorry for him), while a policewoman patted down my body.

"Are you sure you don't have anything you shouldn't?" she asked, kindly. I blurted something about being "respectable". Christ, if my 17-year-old self could hear me now.

The third officer took down my name, address, height and date of birth, told me that I was being searched under section 23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act, and that the dog was trained to detect cannabis (upgraded from Class C to B in January). They were doing a campaign at the moment, he said, visiting Tube stations and football games.

"You'd be amazed the amount of people that have things they shouldn't do in their pockets."

I looked at him: mid-twenties, nice haircut. Hadn't he ever inhaled? Across the ticket hall I noticed two others being searched (both black, one in tears). Eventually conceding that the mutt had got it wrong, I was told politely, but without apology, "Probably you've sat next to someone on the Tube who had some cannabis in their pocket. The dog is really sensitive."

Or very classy – I think it mistook for the scent of skunk my daily spritz of Chanel Sycomore, a smoky and resinous perfume. I can't say my first encounter with the Met was anything but polite. But I wonder if 25 police officers would be better deployed on other duties. The dog certainly would.