Drug Program Makes Trooper Controversial Hero
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ In 14 months, Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Bob Vogel has seized contraband worth $3 million and arrested 60 people on drug charges, making him a hero to fellow law enforcement officials but a menace in the eyes of civil rights lawyers.
″He’s a one-man narcotics task force,″ Daytona Beach Police Capt. Barry Neall said of Vogel, 38. ″His seizures are phenomenal.″
But defense attorneys charge that Vogel abuses search-and-seizure rights, saying the only way he can make so many arrests is to stop people on ″trumped-up charges″ for arbitrary searches.
″How many people has he stopped that haven’t been arrested?″ asked Daytona Beach defense attorney Dan Warren.
Vogel’s drug captures are done in addition to his other routine duties of handling felony cases, traffic and homicide investigations. He has been commended by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Justice Department as well as by the highway patrol.
He was chosen Central Florida’s 1983 law enforcement officer of the year, making major drug busts with such regularity that one of his former supervisors said he got tired of writing letters of commendation.
Robert Butterworth, former executive director of the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the parent agency of the highway patrol, had developed a personalized stamp that said in bold print: ″Congratulations Robert L. Vogel. You did it again 3/8″
The 16-month-old drug interdiction program, which last year resulted in 1,119 arrests and the seizure of $35 million worth of drugs statewide, instructs troopers to stop anyone who fits a police profile of a highway drug smuggler.
Warren claims the profile is based on stereotypes and aims at blacks and other minorities who wear gold jewelry and drive rental cars with out-of-state license plates late at night.
He wants a court order requiring the highway patrol to turn over all of the reports, exhibits and training manuals in the drug interdiction program. The materials will show it is racially motivated, Warren contends.
Assistant State Attorney Melvin Stack, who is prosecuting several of Vogel’s drug arrests, called the racial argument ″a smoke screen, a red flag for the media″ to draw attention away from the innocence or guilt of the suspects.
Stack said Vogel’s arrests aren’t limited to a particular category of people, and include a cross-section of blacks, Hispanics and whites.