Rebuttal to Hawthorne Police Department statement by ex-chief: An editorial

July 15, 2013

The Hawthorne Police Department former K-9 trainer/officer and ex-Police Chief Harold Holmes issued a statement about the number of dogs being shot by police. Holmes is now an attorney in southern California.

“In over 20 years as a police officer, I have never met a cop who started his day or went to a call with the intention of shooting a dog.”

In an article published July 15, Holmes went on to state what he considers the real reason dogs are shot.

“Most dog shootings by police officers result from the owner’s failure to properly confine a dog while officers are on the premises or nearby, placing the officers in a rapidly unfolding situation with an uncontrolled canine approaching and no alternative but to use deadly force. The public often has unrealistic expectations based upon the luxury of unlimited opportunity to analyze a few brief moments recorded from outside a scene in which there are far greater dangers than are apparent to the camera. The officers’ first duty is their personal safety and the safety of other officers so that they, in turn, can protect the public.”

Here are a sampling of articles I’ve done for Examiner that beg to differ. These dogs were all shot while in their own yard.

*Spartanburg-tethered dog
*Fayetteville, NC dog in house
*Kentucky dog shot in home when burglar alarm call answered
*El Dorado, Illinois at wrong address
*Hell’s Angels case, dogs shot in house
*Detroit, 3 dogs killed on property
*Minneapolis dogs killed in house, blood splattered on kids
*Charlotte Weavers dog, police opened gate
*Regina police ignored beware of dog signs
*Alameda, 2 dogs shot on their property
*San Antonio, 2 puppies shot in home
*Justice for Merlin, dog tased on property
*Pepperball shooting, dog shot in home
*Sandusky, Ohio dog killed in yard
*South Holland dog shot on its own porch
*Vinny shot in yard with terminally ill child present, cops at wrong address
*El Monte police ignore beware of dog signs and shoot dog on property
*Oklahoma dog shot 4 times in her yard
*Center Line, Michigan kill mama dog in her own yard
*Pit named Cindy shot when police broke into wrong apartment owner at work
*Marshall County dog killed by police in her own yard
*Riverside family, dog shot by police who had come onto the property
*Commerce City police killed Chloe in her own garage (caught on video)

There are more examples that can be given. These are only the cases I covered personally. I stopped this list because the more murdered dog stories I have to revisit for reference purposes, the angrier I become.

All of my Examiner articles on dog shootings can be found here. Examiner reporter Penny Eims has covered 20 times the number of dogs shot by police than I have. I try not to write on the same dogs, but sometimes we do overlap.

Police Chief Robert Fager announced on July 12 that he has called on the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to conduct an independent investigation of the shooting of Max, the Rottweiler owned by Leon Rosby who was shot to death on June 30. The department is still pursuing charges brought against Leon for being in what they consider close proximity to a crime scene.

Fager has also stated he’s assembling a “use-of-force analysis group” to review the Police Department’s interactions with animals. He’ll be using material furnished by the DOJ-Oriented Policing Office as well as the National Canine Research Council. Officers will be trained in a manner where lethal force isn’t used as a first defense.

This is a major breakthrough, as the department recently explained the shooting of Max as officers are trained to fire their weapon multiple times until a threat is stopped. Two things that were heartbreaking in Max’s death were that Max was down after the first bullet hit him. Another is that Leon wasn’t given the opportunity to “contain” his dog.

Police officers across the country are being trained to basically empty their weapons into a dog, oblivious to the fact a ricocheting bullet could hit an innocent party. This has happened on several occasions now. At least on two occasions, officers have ended up injuring each other instead of the dog.

The statement above made by Holmes says owner’s fail to contain their dog before speaking with the police. How accurate is his statement? How many articles have we read where the dog owner has been flat out denied access to their dog. Many dogs over the past year have been shot without the owner being given any option at all.

And how about the officer who shot Rosie, a Newfoundland, the Des Moines family who recently settled a lawsuit for at least $51,000. That officer yelled “NICE” after shooting a dog that was retreating. This isn’t here say. It was caught on dash-cam, where it was later entered into evidence.

I would personally like to thank the officer who shot Rosie because he was the proverbial stray that broke the camels back. The shooting of Rosie was the one that sent me into overdrive to report as many dogs shot by police murders as possible.

The murder of Rosie also shows there are police officers out there who do appear to start out their day with the desire to kill a family dog. Officers jump fences, go to the wrong address and sneak around at night in a yard with a dog.

Then use the excuse they “feared for their lives” after deciding to end the dog’s life. Half the time, the owner is given a “dog at large” citation, when the dog wouldn’t have been at large if the police hadn’t come onto the property.

Good luck with your training, Hawthorne. While you’re at it, please try to remove any officers you may encounter during training who have a bad attitude towards family dogs. The case of Rosie is proof these officers do exist.

We’re not asking you to put officers in danger concerning aggressive dogs. Only to learn non-lethal methods as a first defense.

Readers, do me a favor. Please do some homework and list any dogs shot by police while on their own property. I know I’ve only covered a small percentage of cases.

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