In covering news items about the problem of police shooting dogs lately (including legislation in Nevada and Illinois, I’ve generally tried to give the police the benefit of the doubt. That is, I pretty much assume that the shootings on record have been accidental.
But what if some of them aren’t? What if a cop shoots somebody’s dog just to show that someone who’s boss? An incident that showed up on BoingBoing today gives at example of police threatening to kill a man’s dog because they wanted to search his house without a warrant.
In late November, Kansas City, Missouri lawyer Eric Crinnian says that three police officers showed up at his house searching for two men who were believed to have violated their parole. When he said that he had never heard of the men, the police asked multiple times to search Crinnian’s house to prove that the men weren’t there. Each time, he refused to allow them in without a warrant, until one officer threatened him.
“If we have to get a warrant, we’re going to come back when you’re not expecting it,” Crinnian reported the officer to have said. “We’re going to park in front of your house, where all your neighbors can see, we’re gonna bust in your door with a battering ram, we’re gonna shoot and kill your dogs … and then we’re going to ransack your house looking for these people.”
In a masterpiece of understatement, John Hamilton, an associate professor of criminal justice at Park University, called the remarks “inappropriate.” They are not illegal, however.
“I just think it’s a dangerous way to do policing, because it makes it tenuous when you appear in front of the court in a case like that,” Hamilton said in a television interview.
This brings up something that’s been nagging at me while writing up news items about police shootings of dogs: Whose dogs are being killed? I keep feeling very curious to see a demographic breakdown by class and race of the dog owners whose pets are killed in police shootings. By purely anecdotal evidence, most of the reports I’ve seen so far have been lower-income people. In the article I wrote yesterday, an officer justified his shooting by arguing that the dog was a Pit Bull, and (the officer reasoned) drug dealers own Pit Bulls. In other words, death because of a bad media image.
Crinnian is a white lawyer, which makes him somewhat media-friendly. It also makes his threats of legal action against the Kansas City Police Department more credible. It’s worth asking how often threats like this are made, and which dog shootings are justified, which are sheer carelessness, and which are deliberate intimidation.
If police came to your house looking for someone you didn’t know and threatened to kill your dogs and wreck your house unless you let them in, what would you do?
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