Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Fido in the crosshairs once again

The apparent police vendetta against dogs continues. This time, officers in Buffalo, New York, stormed into a home during the course of a search for drugs, gunned the dogs down in front of the family, and then left without making any arrests.

According to the Buffalo News, the raided home was the residence of Rita M. Patterson and her father, Daniel J. Patterson. Rita's boyfriend William F. Hanavan, who has served time on drug charges, was present at the scene and the likely target, but the warrant specified only "a white male and Hydrocodone."

Before she knew what was happening, police wearing masks and helmets and carrying automatic weapons had broken through the door. They tied her hands with a zip tie and put her on the floor.

Her father pleaded with police not to shoot the dogs, but they wouldn’t allow him to grab the dogs and put them in another room, Patterson said.

One of the officers started firing a shotgun at the two dogs, one a pit bull and the other a pit bull-boxer mix.

One of the dogs was shot three times: once in the throat, once in the back and the last time in the leg while trying to run away, Rita Patterson said.

The other dog was cowering behind a table. Neither was a threat to the police, the residents said.

While no arrests were made at the time, Hanavan was picked up the next day on assault charges, which may or may not have anything to do with the raid.

Overall, the story fits into a continuing pattern in which police seemingly gun down dogs that pose no apparent threat, sometimes even intervening to prevent owners from securing their pets. Short of assuming institutional cruelty toward animals, the only possible conclusion is that police are choosing to shoot dogs as a precautionary measure -- for those rare circumstances when household companions turn out to be trained killers the police insist they run across from time to time.

It may also be a brutal means of asserting dominance in encounters with the public.

Such shootings are sufficiently common that they've been addressed by the Humane Society. According to Randall Lockwood, Vice President of Research and Educational Outreach:

Some of these reports reveal a disturbing trend. According to a report in The Indianapolis Star, nearly three-fourths of the shooting incidents in the city from January 2000 to September 2002 involved shots fired at dogs, with officers killing 44 dogs during that period.

Phoenix, Arizona police shot eight dogs each year in 1999 and 2000, and then shot 13 in 2001. In Seattle, Washington, there were 11 non-accidental firearms discharges by police between March 1999 and March 2000. Two of these involved fatal shootings of people; four involved dogs killed by officers.

Most instances in which police shoot dogs are avoidable. These incidents often underscore other problems, whether in policies, procedures, communication or training.

Lock wood also points out, "Since more than one-third of American households have a dog, officers are likely to encounter canines whenever they approach or enter a residence. Although they may encounter truly dangerous dogs in some situations, the majority of dogs are likely to be well-behaved family pets who are legitimately protecting their homes and families from intruders."

It's true that pointless shootings of beloved animals by law-enforcement authorities don't rise to the same level of horror as similar killings of people. But the consequences after such shootings are usually petty -- when the police don't completely circle the wagons. After the Buffalo incident, police spokesman Michael J. DeGeorge said, “Executing a search warrant, police never know what they’re going to find on the other side of that door,” DeGeorge said. “In most cases, these can be life and death situations.”

It's true that you never know what's on the other side of the door -- that's why you have to exercise judgment and restraint. When there is no judgment or restraint ... well ... we may get a window into institutional police attitudes toward the public. How do officers wield force when they think they can get away with it?

These shootings may offer a disturbing answer to that question.


By the way, the above is written in my "professional" voice -- the one I use for paid gigs so as not to scare the rubes. My personal addendum is that my dogs are members of my family and under my protection. Anybody who harms a member of my family without ample provocation is fair game for whatever retaliation I choose to visit upon them. A blue polyester shirt and a piece of tin on the offender make no difference in the matter.

I strongly suspect that dogs are targeted as a "safe" (that is, consequence-free) exercise of lethal force in order to assert control over situations. Adding consequences to the mix, even if outside the law, may change that calculation.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

our son enlisted in the military some years ago. he's an only child. we have 2 scotties we love. i don't know if its the 'empty nest' thing but regardless the 2 are our children now. they're not 'like' our children. they are. if anyone were to harm them they would have to pry my cold dead fingers from their throat. i can't begin to imagine the level of anger or frustration or the miserable grief suffered by the families this has happened to. its astounding more of these gestapo types haven't been shot.

March 31, 2009 3:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Got to the cops' houses and kill their children. End of story. Life for a life.

April 1, 2009 9:03 PM  
Blogger drummondo5 said...

Your observations are straight on. If it came down to it, of course, I hold human life higher than animals now that I have my own children. But on the other hand, I still have pets, and on the flip side of that coin, if it comes down to it, a polyester shirt and a piece of tin won't stop me from defending my property and loved ones either--whether it be my children, my pets or my home. Well written!

April 1, 2009 9:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Jack Boot Thug (JBT) mentality of the police is completely over the top.

We can only blame ourselves for allowing the militarization of our police forces. We can only hope that it's not too late to change this usurpation of our rights and freedoms.

I'm wondering when those blue shirts and badges will be traded for brown shirts with red armbands. Maybe they already have been........

April 1, 2009 9:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this, even if it raises bloodpressure. I take it one is not allowed at least to sue the city for this sort of thing?

April 1, 2009 9:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Albert Einstein said, "Force always attracts men of low morality." Too many cops today are nothing short of psychopaths, having no respect for life, human or not. This will continue until enough of us decide that we are not going to take this anymore and take whatever measures are necessary to reign in these jack booted thugs.

April 1, 2009 11:08 PM  
Blogger Ernest said...

re- anonymous "We can only blame ourselves for allowing the militarization of our police forces. We can only hope that it's not too late to change this usurpation of our rights and freedoms."

I disagree. "We" are not to blame for any of this. This is being done to us, not by us. We didn't actually allow the militarization of our police forces, it was done under a political system into which we have absolutely no input. As to the second statement, that we can only hope, etc.: it is too late to change the way our rulers and their attack animals in uniform view us, at least by any peaceful means.

The genie is out of the bottle. Getting him back in is going to be difficult.

April 2, 2009 3:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are a number of cops in my family, so it is hard to avoid them at family gatherings. At the last Thanksgiving get together two, from the same suburban dept., were whooping it up about the fact that each patrol car now has a selectable fire M4 with ACOG optics and get this..a suppressor. I had to ask WHY each and every officer needed a silenced automatic weapon? They gave me the usual death stare and said, it was a Homeland Security grant and they needed to exercise it. One then went on to describe how great the suppressors are when they are chasing suspects across backyards and need to "quietly" give a burst to a dog who comes at them! SICKOS!

April 2, 2009 5:18 AM  
Blogger David said...

Re: "we're to blame." This is true in the sense that we get the government our neighbors tolerate. So far, Joe Citizen tolerates the militarization of the police. Does it have anything to do with the endless TV elevation of cops to demigod status? Beats me. People who read blogs like this know better and, like me, probably can't keep from half-puking when the idiot box carries some promo spot for another cop drama.

My first impulse when I read stories like this is to think about the near-Thor's Hammer effect I got yesterday shooting a semi-auto 308 Winchester rifle at the range. Cops would Sh** themselves if they thought they might be on the wrong side of that cannon. Then I remember that there is no way to successfully resist, by active force, a lethal force that your neighbors believe is "legitimate." If there were a spate of cop shootings by citizens defending themselves it would only serve to bolster the call for disarmament of citizens and "legitimize" even higher levels of violence against people who aren't in the "cop gang." Only passive resistance can be employed: soon in Amerika we may see that smarter, wealthier people live like their cousins in countries like Saudi Arabia where homes are surrounded by high walls topped with embedded broken glass, not to stop common criminals but to slow the invasion of the official kind and give residents the ability to avoid sudden, unannounced raids. By preventing the cops from using their terrorist "no-knock" or "announce-and-smash" raids, they may be less likely to behave like Marines in Bahgdad.

April 2, 2009 5:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

David is right, for the most part, but I think his comments assume the thugs leave you with something left to lose. If they leave you not caring about the consequences then what is "legitimate" doesn't matter anymore. That's why in places like Iraq and Afghanistan we're commissioning more enemies than we're retiring.

April 2, 2009 7:36 AM  
Blogger David said...

Anonymous said: "If they leave you not caring about the consequences then what is "legitimate" doesn't matter anymore. That's why in places like Iraq and Afghanistan we're commissioning more enemies than we're retiring."

So true.

People were herded onto cattle cars because they couldn't imagine what was to come. They hoped for the best, believing they had something to lose by resisting, and experienced the worst.

Today, if the cops come for you it is suicide to resist, and presumably not suicide to submit (at least, most of the time). Our challenge, at all times, is to correctly discern when it is time to resist with everything we've got because the consequences of submission would leave us nothing to lose.

IMHO we're not there yet. I sincerely hope we never get to that point, but I'm realistic enough to grasp that it could happen at any moment. Always we're in our own OODA loop.

April 2, 2009 8:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We call them "pigs" when they are far more like wolves.

April 2, 2009 9:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When will we pick up arms to defend ourselves from tyranny and evil. Join the T.E.A. (taxed enough already) party this April 15 in a community near you. Get informed, wear a white armband, buy a gun get the ammo, learn to aim small, hit small.

"If we don't pay they cannot kill!"

Two thousand years ago, a Roman Senator suggested that all slaves wear white armbands to better identify them.
"No," said a wiser Senator, "If they see how many of them there are, they may revolt."

April 2, 2009 10:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is this behavior being used by police to assert dominance over citizens? Absolutely.

Is the advancing militarization of all police contributing to the problem? You bet.

Did we bring it on ourselves or is it being done to us by others? My answer is both.

Do television programs that glorify and deify police contribute to the problem? Without a doubt.

Are there many different ways in which the general public is becoming more and more desensitized to police violence against citizens? Yes.

With all these points in mind, what I would like to propose here is this:

Stories about the police shooting dogs always make me think about serial killers and how animal killing/torture is often the gateway into perpetrating the same violence against humans.
It seems to me that the police could in fact be using this violence against dogs as a way of trying it on to see how it feels. I hope they don't like it.

Of course the fact that it will almost never lead the offenders to any real type of misconduct penalties only serves to bolster their sense of untouchability.

After all, if Lon Horiuchi can have his manslaughter charge for killing Vicki Weaver at Ruby Ridge dismissed, how severe could the repercussions be for shooting a dog?

April 2, 2009 2:35 PM  
Anonymous Scott said...

Speaking from a purely rational point of view, unless the warrant indicates they can destroy your property (which I highly doubt), and unless they are defending their life from your dog, then any office attempting to shoot your dog should be treated like any other criminal and you have a right to defend your property as if it this cop was a thief in the night.

April 2, 2009 2:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As David says, they make semi-automatic shotguns that could effectively halt a police raid. If enough homes had them, the cops might stop being such unmitigated thugs. I merely have a Mossberg pump-action, and stories like these make me wish I had shelled out for a semi-auto.

I am on the left but not when it comes to gun control. As long as government agents have guns, the citizens need adequate firepower to defend themselves.

April 2, 2009 2:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Scott, if they don't knock and announce, people just need to start shooting, take out a many burglars as possible, repel the threat, don't come out until the media is there (else it's not safe), and explain that you didn't know they were cops.

April 2, 2009 2:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael Vick, call your office...

April 2, 2009 3:07 PM  
Anonymous Alice Lillie said...

Right on, Jerome. You have every right in the world to protect your family and your possessions.

So whether your dogs be family or possessions, you do have the right.

This is why it is so important that the law-abiding have guns. For self-defense.

April 2, 2009 7:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have read a lot of history books over the years. I do not recall any reference to German troops, whether SS or others, specifically targeting animals when searching for those considered "undesirable". It is shocking to think that the routine slaughter of household pets has become a stylish American trait that is sadistically exercised to demonstrate power, dominance and ownership. I shudder when I contemplate the future.

April 2, 2009 9:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"When a person, being without fault, is in a place where he has a right to be, is violently assaulted, he may, without retreating, repel by force, and if, in the reasonable exercise of his right of self defense, his assailant is killed, he is justifiable." Runyan v. State, 57 Ind. 80; Miller v. State, 74 Ind. 1. "These principles apply as well to an officer attempting to make an arrest, who abuses his authority and transcends the bounds thereof by the use of unnecessary force and violence, as they do to a private individual who unlawfully uses such force and violence." Jones v. State, 26 Tex. App. I; Beaverts v. State, 4 Tex. App. 1 75; Skidmore v. State, 43 Tex. 93, 903.

April 3, 2009 12:02 AM  

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