Monday, September 13, 2010

More Cops Meet Dogs

Reason's Radley Balko has a roundup of the latest cop shoots dog stories. I took particular note of the Lexington, Kentucky story, where a police officer pursued a fleeing suspect into a fenced in yard and proceeded to shoot the dog of the family whom the property belonged too. I find the comments particularly interesting in these sorts of circumstances and there's definitely a growing awareness that this isn't simply an isolated incident. Of course you have the typical reflexive defenders of law enforcement, but the commenters in Lexington do a good job of challenging such sentiments.

Of course, far too many commenters wade into the debate over the officers state of mind: Is he a vicious dog killer or was he just simply making the best of a bad situation? As I've pointed out before, judgments of individual police officers tend to be counter productive. Writing off unjustified shootings to lousy police work on an individual level merely perpetuates the very policies that are problematic in the first place. As Radley Balko has asked time and time again, why are police seemingly so ill-equip to handle these encounters with dogs? Why isn't there training? Why aren't there departmental guidelines?

The folks that get worked up over any criticism of law enforcement exhibit the same sort of epistemic closure we just saw from Matt Yglesias's commenters about barber licensing. It's a reactionary defense of the status quo with no actual thought given to the issue in a vacuum.

In terms of these dog shootings, the point isn't that a police officer shooting a dog is never justified, the point is that for all the cases you find across the country a police officer shooting a dog in the course of duty, you have difficulty finding a case where such a shooting was deemed unjustified. The larger, across-the-board problem isn't that this officer shot this dog, but that there are no mechanisms for taking these cases seriously and no mechanisms for ensuring our pets are safe should police come on to our property.

2 Comments:

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11:23 AM  

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