Dog 'Scent Lineups' Called Stupid Pet Tricks

False convictions raise doubts about police use of sniffing dogs
By Jane Yager,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 4, 2009 8:45 AM CST
Explosives-sniffing dog Kali is led by University of Washington police officer Kenny Johns as they inspect cars in a lot adjacent to the Seattle Seahawks' stadium Oct. 18, 2009, in Seattle.   (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
camera-icon View 3 more images

(Newser) – After years sniffing out drugs and explosives, police scent dogs have found a controversial new line of work: In "scent lineups," a dog given a scent from the scene of a crime picks out a matching smell from a lineup of swabs taken from suspects. Advocates say scent lineups have proved their worth, but those falsely convicted in lineups beg to differ.

One man convicted in a scent lineup served eight months for murder before the real killer confessed to the crime; another sniffed out for burglary was released from prison after store videos showed he didn't look like the burglar. Critics warn that scents are easily cross-contaminated and scent lineups poorly controlled, but New York, Texas, and many other states continue to use the technique, the New York Times reports.