Winner 2018

$2 Tests: Bad Arrests

WAGA-TV FOX 5 Atlanta

Reporter Randy Travis delves into the reliability of drug-testing kits, known as “$2 Tests,” used by police in metro Atlanta as a quick, cheap way to analyze suspicious substances in the field. Despite warnings that the plastic packets could produce false positives, dashcam videos reveal that police regularly relied on them to charge innocent people with drug possession and trafficking. Combing through more than 1,000 reports received via an open records request, investigators ultimately identified 145 false positives in one year alone. The result was “bad arrests” for everyday items many people might have on their person or in their car such as headache powder, vitamins, or even cleaning supplies. One woman spent three months in jail after a test of blue cotton candy gave a false positive for methamphetamine. Startling interviews and quick pacing show the impact of such charges on citizens and a flawed system at work. The coverage received wide recognition, leading police departments to drop the tests and compelling professional associations to educate law enforcement, prosecutors, and public defenders on the fallibility of the tests. For eye-opening local reporting with a serious impact on communities far and wide, $2 Tests: Bad Arrests wins a Peabody Award.


Executive Producers: Eric Ludgood. Associate Producers/Producers: Mindy Larcom, Aaron Willen, Randy Travis. Writers: Randy Travis. Editors: Randall Rinehart. Reporters: Randy Travis. Photography: Aaron Willen.