In response to blowback over the death of a local retired judge’s dog last month, the Topeka police have officially announced they will participate in more (of the same) training, and that they are sad. In an interview with WIBW-TV, Topeka Police Deputy Chief Brian Desch and the TPD defend death in animal encounters and said
We’re sad. No officer goes to a call wanting it to end like this; they don’t want anyone to lose a family pet.
I originally posted about the death of Josie here… Topeka Cop Kills Again
I’ve heard their response to the criticism and it’s just the usual police rhetoric: Response time is critical. We’ll do some training.
This may seem reasonable to some but I’m not impressed. Dogs are not new. Guns aren’t a recent invention. Burglaries are rare compared to a 1990’s 1st-issue comic book sure, but it’s not at all unusual. Nothing about what this officer has gone through in this instance should have come as a surprise to him enough to leave him unprepared for the situation. He was doing his job. The same job he has done for nearly 20 years.
I said I’d revisit this issue if/when they released the video and so here I am again. I think my initial analysis was right and that this dog is dead because this officer has proven himself repeatedly to be unworthy of his power and lacking in his responsibility. I think the video (above) proves that his first response, and only response, is to kill even the slightest of threats. Take this video, add in this picture…
…and we have exactly what I suggested, a case where lethal force was not necessary. Officer Cruse has 4 to 5 seconds between when he is alerted to the dog’s presence and the time he shoots it. He actually has time to pull back away from the danger, draw his weapon and fire two rounds. If this were a knife-wielding maniac actually charging Cruse then lethal force would be a realistic option, but Josie is not a maniac with a knife she’s a small dog naturally and properly protecting her property and approaching an officer who chooses to use lethal force in the face of other options.
But look at that image. According to training Officer Cruse has (or should have) already taken, evidence suggests that pepper spray is 100% effective against dogs. I realize that it says “nearly” 100% effective, but I’m looking at the last bullet point for my measure of success: “No Officer Injuries.” The image is taken from a training course on less-than-lethal options for officers when dealing with threatening animals as presented by the Department of Justice and the National Canine Research Council… and was training offered by the TPD within the last few years. From WIBW…
TPD Deputy Chief Brian Desch says, while the state does not mandate training on handling aggressive animals, in 2012, TPD offered a two-hour session on the topic during inservice, and will do another session this year. He says officers also get some training in handling animal calls when dealing with defensive actions during their initial time in academy.
If you read that entire article, it’s really quite telling. It starts off clearly stating that police have the same tools to deal with dogs as they do people. That tells me that some, maybe most, officers are going to respond violently like this even when they are not in any real danger, as in this case. If you continue reading you may also notice that they brush over the usefulness of pepper spray citing it must be used within 3 to 8 feet, insinuating that the range is too close for comfort, but, yeah, that’s the effective distance of pepper spray. If it’s not a viable tool for policing why do they even carry it?
In the article Desch goes on to address the size of the target as being a particular challenge because a dog is smaller and faster than a human while ignoring a couple of simple facts: he shot the dog, the same dog with the same shot target inside the same distance as the effectiveness of both a T.A.S.E.R and pepper spray.
Lastly Desch places the blame for the death of Josie on to the owners saying…
Desch says people should remember that officers do not know their pet, so they should take precautions like a fenced yard, a pen or a closed room when they are away, especially if they know their pet will run up to people.
That’s right it’s always our fault and not the fault of the police when things go bad. Even when police are invading your property, with or without cause, even though the police are behind the gun pulling the trigger, even though police have options outside lethal force. You second class citizen will obey, or you will die!
The good news is, the officers will undergo training. As I said at the start, the same training that ends in the death of about four dogs each year at the hands of Topeka Police Officers. According to a follow-up article and interview with Chief of Police James Brown,
The new requirement will be “…that officers can only use lethal force against an animal when necessary to defend against a vicious animal when it is reasonably believed the animal poses an imminent threat of significant injury and no other reasonable means of protection is available.”
Fweeew, problem solved. I’m not going to address the obvious question… “Why wasn’t this always the policy?”