Dogs and Cops

You’ve been warned!

The Atlantic has a mistitled article out:  What-dog-shootings-reveal-about-American-policing. It would have been more accurate to title it “How Does a Left Wing Rag Construct a Story out of Nothing?”

It is simple, take a single incident make it seem like it is a commonplace occurrence, add some imaginary numbers and find a discredited cop hater like Radley Balko and give him credibility way beyond his due. It is the same formula that Hollywood uses in making movies, ask the viewer to suspend disbelief while viewing the film a Department of Justice estimate of 10,000 dogs per year killed by police. “The Nation,” says they got the number 10,000 from a Justice Department official.  The Justice Department official speculated in a 2012 interview with “Police Magazine” that the number could be as high as 10,000 a year, calling it “an epidemic.” That figure that is often repeated in media reports about dog shootings, but it’s little more than a guess. A 2012 study by the National Canine Research Council estimated that half of all intentional police shootings involved dogs. How many is that? Don’t know the information is not provided and therefore doesn’t support or deny the 10,000 claim. Bet you thought it did; read it again.

Where did the Justice Department Official who gave the interview get the number? He made it up. Got a nice ring, kinda sings, can’t dance to it. Since it has now been quoted multiple times, it has the same permanence as if it had been carved in granite.

Common experience easily demonstrates that the number is false. First, take into consideration the MSM, they are not very bright, and original thought is strongly discouraged. If we accept 10,000 shootings at face value, that means 27 times a day police in the United States are shooting a dog.

Have you ever heard of a whipped cream container exploding and killing a model? Operative words are whipped cream, exploding and model. It happened about a month ago. Within two weeks the press was able to report, with great glee, that a second model was injured similarly. How about a wild elephant that sought out humans for medical treatment? Within a month the number had grown to three elephants. Do I need to belabor the SUV? Back to cops and dogs. Operative words: cops, shooting, and dog times 27 a day. All of the dog shooting stories would take up space reserved for the MSM to sell toilet paper and tampons, the main mission of any news organization.

Next, the writer trots out an expert. How does one become an expert? Easy, proclaim that you are one and find somebody dumb enough to accept you at face value. Radley Balko is a self-described expert on police. He never worked as one. There is nothing in Balko’s CV to indicate that he has specialized knowledge or conducted original research on law enforcement. He just is.

I don’t like Radley Balko. I think he plays fast and loose with facts and has a bias against police. When the facts aren’t on his side he employs misdirection and rhetorical games to make his point. While I agree that many police shootings of dogs are unnecessary, there are no points of commonality, as to how we reached the same conclusion. Here is a prime example of his thinking. According to Radley Balko, Yet killing isn’t necessarily the only option. After all, just like police officers, postal workers regularly encounter both vicious and gregarious dogs on their daily rounds. But letter carriers don’t kill dogs, even though they are bitten by the thousands every year.

He is comparing apples and oranges. Think about the patterns of an encounter between dogs and police and dogs and letter carriers. Some of the dogs that police shoot pose a danger to individuals. Postal carriers do not answer vicious dog calls.  A postal patron with a vicious dog will soon pick up his mail at the Main post office. Postal carriers can and do retreat. Police, given particular circumstances, may not have that option. With notable exceptions, letter carriers are not armed. Police are, and retreat may not be an option.

Just in case Balko hasn’t pushed enough buttons he concludes with this gem.  It is not unreasonable to ask police officers to display the same degree of courage in the face of sometimes hostile canines that we ask of every United States postal carrier. Cops unable to marshal it cannot be trusted to put the public’s safety before their own. I have more respect for the last pile of dog excrement I stepped in than Mr. Balko.

I was a police officer for thirty years, fifteen years with a narcotics task force in Texas. I participated in over a thousand search warrants, most all of them hard entries. In our various forays, we ran across dogs, cats, gerbils, snakes, jackasses (human and equine), horses, goats, sheep, fighting roosters and a pot bellied pig. During that time, members of the unit shot three suspects and three dogs. We sure felt sorry for the dogs. Our casualties; one agent suffered a dog bite, and one agent treed on a chest of drawers by a Vietnamese Pot belly pig. The pig weighed in at about two hundred pounds and just wanted to be friends.

We took the stance that animals were part of the household and we had an obligation to ensure everybody’s safety.  We contended for the family dog in our planning; we had to flex in the way we did things. Sometimes it meant adding a fire extinguisher to our arsenal, a blast of CO2 in the face was an effective dog deterrent. We hit one place three times; the family dog got the CO2 treatment twice. The third time we pulled up, the dog headed for the neighbor’s house. Given the option, most dogs would rather retreat than engage in a confrontation.

Normally, we would control the movement of all persons in residence. Given a panicky dog and a willing owner, we would allow a family member to control the animal. A person holding a squirming dog has their plate full and is unlikely to pose a threat to officers, during the time it takes to secure the animal.

Finally, we figured out that the truly dangerous dogs were chained up in the backyard. It was just a matter of estimating the length of the chain (where the grass starts again) and add two feet. He can’t bite you if he can’t reach you.

I don’t know this, but I suspect that the upsurge in the shooting of dogs is going to have its roots in city hall, not the police department. Look for the geek in the City Administration called a risk manager. Does the city take the attitude that dog bites are preventable? If an employee suffers a dog bite is there a case review and potential for disciplinary action? The problem with bureaucracies is that one size doesn’t fit all.

My generation of cops were “risk takers.” Oftentimes there was no policy.  If there was one we regarded it as a suggested course of action, the application of which was optional. We pushed things to the edge, believing there was one more thing we could try. Sometimes we took the risk because we were bored and our chosen course ought to liven things up.

We realized that as we developed tactics to handle confrontations, “Officer Survival” the best we could hope for was risk recognition and mitigation. At the end of the day, somebody somehow was going have to grit their teeth and handle the problem.

That all changed after the failed ATF raid on the Branch Davidian complex outside Waco, overnight law enforcement became risk averse. Police management sought to eliminate confrontation in a job where almost every contact involved a confrontation. Pretty soon line officers had policy documents covering virtually every facet of police work. Unfortunately, the policy got written by the wrong people for the wrong reasons. Upper-level management and outside consultants wrote the policy, and since they hadn’t responded to a police call for service in years, their insight was limited. Often the resulting document did nothing to inform or guide the rank and file. The policy was put in place to cover the administration, also known as CYA.

I would suspect that if one were to study the police use of force on family pets, by assignment, SWAT, Narcotics, Fugitive Squad, Repeat Offender Unit, and Task Force would be under represented. This is because they already have a plan and equipment in place to deal with animals. The reason isn’t that they are all charter members of PETA. Rather, experience has shown, the suspect’s dead dog is a barrier to building mutual trust.

Patrol, on the other hand, is about volume. The quicker an officer clears a call the more calls get answered. They have probably been assured that vicious dogs are the purview of animal control. Animal control will solve all their dog problems. Unspoken is the four to forty-eight hour response time for Animal Control to make the scene. The patrol officer finds himself with an unworkable paper solution, improvises and Fido dies.

Over twenty years have passed, but I still remember one dog. We determined that she was not a threat. She wanted to be everybody’s friend. As the search of the residence progressed, she ran from room to room, narc to narc carrying her new found toy, an 8-inch rubber dildo. Good Dog!