Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Cops & Dogs

There's a debate raging here in New Orleans about dogs and cops. Monday a police officer, responding to burglary call in the Lakeview neighborhood, shot and killed Jax, one of two Dobermans owned by Dr. Patrick Coleman. The rest of the details are murky. The police say they had to kill the dog for their safety. But the force seemed excessive, as the officer fired 8 shots, and Jax was crippled from a recent back surgery so the owner says the dog was no danger. Coleman reports that the police first stated that his other dog, the one still alive, was the one that charged the officer. What disturbs me the most about this was the attitude of the police. Dr. Coleman reported in a local interview that the police were huddled around laughing while he mourned his dog, and when he calmly asked them what they were laughing about, an officer stepped forward and said "You need to calm down." Typical cop behavior.

I've never liked cops. Some of my friends are cops, and I have met many good people who go into the police force with the intent to make the world a better place. It's just that I have personally been abused and mistreated by police entrusted by the public to protect and serve. Well, there were two times in my life in which I was excited to see police. Once Gilgamesh when he was a toddler got lost in the streets in front of our house and the police were very helpful. Then, one time my friends and I were getting severely beat up by a Lomas gang in Omaha and the police showed up. The Lomas gang ran when the cop cars arrived, leaving my three friends and I bloody and nearly unconscious in the street. We were jumped by the way, and did nothing to start that fight. Those cops ironically gave us tickets for disorderly conduct, though we did nothing but act as targets for the gang members' boots. The police didn't bother chasing the gang members.

When I was young and had long hair living in Nebraska, I used to get pulled over all the time, and twice police officers tried to start fights with me. They'd push me and say "I know you want to hit me, go ahead." Anyway, when you are 17 and see things like that, it effects you. I asked my students today, "How many of you trust the police." None of them raised their hands. That is sad and contributes to our current problem of violent crime in New Orleans. And then you read stories, like the Haitian man who had police put a plunger handle in his rectum. And locally, there are many documented cases of police officers using their power to rape, steal, and even murder. When I worked at a psychiatric hospital, after a time, I started feeling like it was us (staff) against them (patients), and I'm sure police feel this every day, akin to the Stanford Prison Experiment.

I would be mad as hell is someone shot my dogs. Dr. Coleman has filed a lawsuit against the police. I have no doubt he'll lose. While a jury in New Orleans might not trust cops, they sure as hell don't like Dobermans. People here in New Orleans tend to be very afraid of dogs. My dogs are pretty harmless, and unlike most of my neighbors who don't have dogs, we've never been robbed. Except by the insurance industry that is. Maybe I could teach my dogs to bite insurance execs.

My dogs Kochise and Mosey.


Leigh C. said...

A fellow from the phone company came to the house I lived in at the time and needed to get into the side yard to hook up somebody's service from outside the house. He didn't realize that my landlady's dogs were there and when he went to open the gate, both of them ran up and started barking at him. Rather than close the gate and ask somebody at the house to put the dogs in a different part of the yard or indoors, he grabbed the first thing he could, which happened to be a piece of rebar and whacked one of the dogs over the head with it, nearly blinding the dog in one eye.

My landlady loved animals and was very, very ready to sue the phone company. I don't think she ever got beyond filing a complaint against the guy, though. And, in this case, having cops shoot the dog makes things even worse in terms of finding justice for the dog.

Anonymous said...

The sad part is the dog was acting on his own instinct, and doing what he was suppose to do. The cop was a stranger to the dogs. As if the cop needed to shoot 8 shots! Couldn't he have shot at the ground just to warn, and scare the dog? I date a cop, and he has told me he has been approached by a dog where he felt threatened. He shot into the ground to scare the dog, and the dog left him alone. Numerous people have dogs in their yards, and normally dogs usually have a reaction to a stranger in their territory. I think sometimes cops have a "I'm big, I'm bad, and I have control" kind of attitude. Shouldn't these big, bad cops already be trained how to react to animals? So if the cop would have come across a burglar, and the burglar was approaching him, would he have shot 8 shots at the person, or would he have pulled out his stick, to scare the burglar, and maybe knock him to his knees? I hope Dr. Coleman can have some justice done.

mominem said...

I may be in the insensitive minority but I wonder about the news media devoting so much time to the killing of a black dog owned by white doctor when so many young black men are killed in our streets. It seems no one bothers to keep track of the number any more.

bayoustjohndavid said...

I pretty much had the same reaction as you did, now that I've had time to think about it, the best I can come up with is:

My first thought was, why didn't he use his pepper spray? If he couldn't use his pepper spray because he had gun in his hand, why was it? If the situation is dangerous enough to enter with gun drawn, shouldn't he have waited for backup. After what happened to the officer in Central City, what are police officers doing entering situations where they feel threatened enough to draw guns in advance, without waiting for backup? Obviously, there would be times when such action would be necessary.

There are some times when the officer's action would have been appropriate, and I hate to see a policeman get killed because of what happened in Lakeview. However, the situations in which it would be appropriate would probably involve some kind of bust -- drug dealers with pit bulls, etc.-- and more than one policeman would be present. Occasionally, dogs would be shot tragically, e.g. drug busts at the wrong address, under the best of circumstances. And yes, those things most often happen in poor neighborhoods. I have no idea what to do about that.

But, at the very least, there's a failure of training and/or a failure to examine procedure after the Central City incident. Policemen need to be trained that pepper spray is meant for aggressive animals not surly, but handcuffed suspects. If the policeman's hand isn't free to get the spray, because it's holding a gun, he probably shouldn't be alone.

Of course, from what we know about the dog's medical condition, it was probably a failure of the NOPD's recruiting, screening and psychological evaluation procedures.

Apples and oranges, mominem.

Michael Homan said...

When I lived in Nebraska there was this guy who read the electric meters, which are located in back yards. He carried a tennis ball and would play fetch with all the dogs in the neighborhood when he was in their yards. Then one day there was a new meter guy, who carried pepper spray instead of a tennis ball, and he was quick to spray anything that moved. Both guys read the meters, but one was better suited for that job. I could never be a police officer, because I would never be able to point a gun at a dog, let alone a person. But there are many ways that the officer who shot the dog could have handled the situation, ways in which nobody would have gotten hurt or been in danger. But I'm sure we'll hear plenty of "he had no other choice because his life was in danger." Baloney.

Lisa said...

My husband is a police officer. he is also a HUGE animal lover. He said the first thing the officer should have done was asked the Dr. to get his dogs under control. The dog was only doing his job, and it's up to the owner to control the dog. And 8 shots is certainly excessive. Being married to a cop, I hate to second guess any cops actions, because I am not in their shoes, but in this case it certainly seems like the police officer acted improperly.

Anonymous said...

While I really hate to second guess an officer responding to what could be a dangerous situation, I'm going to in this instance.

I agree that the dog was just doing its job and doing what it was trained to do. That doesn't make it any less dangerous for the police officer. Unless he's stupid or mean or a big weenie. EIGHT shots? Give me a break.

You train people with dangerous jobs so that they don't have to think when a dangerous situation requires immediate action. It obviously didn't take with this one.

Anonymous said...

Dog gone!