Was that ‘nickel sack’ or ‘Nickelback,’ boys?

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COEUR d’ALENE — One is a very small bag of marijuana.

The other is a Canadian rock band.

The difference between “nickel sack” and “Nickelback” goes far beyond one letter, as an increasingly popular video shows here.

Two unidentified young men were detained June 20 by Kootenai County sheriff’s deputies who used aggressive language and behavior over a potential misunderstanding between the two words. One of the young men recorded the incident, which was uploaded to YouTube on June 21 and already has about 25,000 views.

The video begins with a male in the passenger seat of a vehicle, parked at Maverik gas station in Coeur d’Alene, preparing to hand over his identification to a deputy.

“Would you like me to call my boss? We just got off of work and came here,” the man filming the exchange says.

“Is your boss the one you’re buying weed for?” the deputy asks.

The male filming the exchange then tells a deputy, who is off camera, that he doesn’t understand why they are “being harassed like this.”

Responding to the question, a deputy tells the two men that when the passenger got out of the vehicle he heard him say, “Yeah, a nickel sack for sure.”

“No — Nickelback,” the filmer responds.

“That guy over there was blasting Nickelback,” the passenger says.

“That’s exactly what he said — ‘that guy’s blaring Nickelback,” the filmer adds.

Discussion between the officers, who frequently use profanity, and the two suspects continues. At one point a deputy allegedly draws his weapon on the passenger.

“He’s reaching back quickly and violently into the back of the car,” the other deputy says while the passenger is being handcuffed. “It’s a really bad idea to reach back.”

After five minutes, the video ends.

No charges were filed against the two men, but the video has gained popularity because of The Free Thought Project, a blog that began with the intent of exposing government and corporate corruption.

“However, we quickly found ourselves in the midst of this localized fear and animosity between police and civilians,” Matt Savoy, who works for the website, said in an email Tuesday to the Press.

Savoy added that the website is “flooded” with stories similar to the incident in Coeur d’Alene, so much so that they cannot cover most of them.

“The ‘Nickelback’ story was submitted to us via our Facebook page. It just epitomized the ridiculousness of what the war on drugs has become, so we ran with it,” Savoy said. “If it wasn't true it would be hilarious, but sadly these officers feel that their job is justified for harassing these guys because they heard Nickelback or nickel sack or whatever.”

According to Lt. Stu Miller, it was a link to the story posted on the sheriff’s office Facebook page that drew the department’s attention to the incident.

“It’s being internally investigated. It’s a personnel issue,” Miller told the Press on Tuesday. “We take this type of thing very seriously and we tell our people all the time to do their job as though someone is always watching, and they are always watching.”

Since the incident is being treated as a personnel issue, Miller said he could not release the names of the officers involved or any other details of the investigation. However, he did say that both officers are still on duty.

“The video is only a portion of the incident,” Miller said. “Obviously our deputies are human — they’re not infallible. But I’ve got to make sure the deputies are treated fairly in this as well.”

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