Monday, November 2, 2009
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
See next posting for earlier information on the trial and background of the case.
The civil (liability) trial of the MPD officer (Arvette Parry) who shot Peach, the graceful Weimaraner dog, in her own yard in Georgetown in 2005, ended this afternoon. The jury found that the officer did not violate Peach's owners' 4th Amendment rights against unreasonable seizures even though Peach showed no aggressive behavior other than barking. The two officers at the scene, whose testimony contradicted each other in several very material parts, testified that Peach was barking and lunging at them from a distance of two feet with Peach's owners nowhere in sight, while Peach's owner testified that Peach was sitting and barking eight feet from the officers and that she was en equal distance away (and gave uncontradicted testimony to prove that). Blogger cannot recall sitting in on any trial where the facts in the case so contradicted the verdict as this case did. (Plaintiff's counsel made a motion to dismiss the verdict on that basis, but that motion was denied, setting still a further ground for a likely appeal.) For instance, Officer William Peterson, the other officer at the scene, testified that Officer Parry told him before the shooting that she was uncomfortable around other peoples' dogs, while Officer Parry herself said that she had no fear of dogs. (Officer Petersen also testified that he himself was afraid of dogs.) Both officers testified that Mrs. Graham, Peach's owner, was nowhere in sight at the time of the shooting, while officer Petersen also testified that he kept shouting, "Get your dog under control" (which Mrs. Graham confirmed), meaning that, if he was to be believed and she not, he was shouting to no one. The list of contradictions between the two officers goes on.
The verdict, of course, does nothing to change the law in DC, nor does it change the public's understanding that has emerged over the last three years regarding what police officers can do when confronted with dogs. Essentially, if one's dog barks at and/or runs up to an officer and the officer says that he or she feared for his or her safety, the officer can "destroy" the dog. The officer does not have to prove any other signs of aggression; the officer does not have to attempt to defuse the aggression by any of the proven successful means; and the officer does not have to use any other non-lethal means to stop the dog despite the Use of Force Continuum officers are required to follow. Although Police Chief Lanier and the Police Academy showed their concerns about unjustified shooting of dogs by their recent support of and introduction of a training program for all officers, today's decision diminishes somewhat if not significantly the impact of that program since officers will not be held accountable for these killings. Fortunately, most police officers know how to handle situations involving animals and know how to apply their best judgment quickly, but that should be little comfort for those whose dogs encounter officers who know neither of these things.
Mayor Fenty, at a recent community meeting, agreed that he would not tolerate the unjustified shootings of dogs by police officers. The goal of those of us in the community concerned about this matter now has to be to change the standard from a very subjective one to an objective one. We have our work cut out for us to do this, but we will succeed, it is hoped before too many other dogs are killed unnecessarily. Four things that need to be done are:
1- The law needs to be changed to state that the Use of Force Continuum is to be applied at all times when lethal force is used, against people or dogs, while still recognizing at all times that an officer's safety is paramount. (Oddly, senior MPD officers with whom Blogger has spoken have stated categorically that the Use of Force Continuum applies to all uses of force, but the DC Attorney General's office argued in court* that it does not. This is a serious contradiction that should be of concern to all citizens of the District.)
2- A General Order needs to be issued on how police officers are to handle situations regarding animals;
3- The investigations of the use of firearms in all cases must be done by the professional and independent Firearms Investigation Teams (FIT). Now, when a dog is shot, even if people are nearby (including holding their dogs), a lieutenant in the district of the officer where the dog was shot does the investigation. (Blogger knows of no such investigation that ever found an unjustified use of force.)
4- The new training program introduced into the Police Academy for recruits must be extended to all MPD officers. (Officer Parry was an 18-year veteran of the force.)
If you live in the District, it is suggested you write to the Mayor, your city council member, and Chief Lanier explaining the importance of dogs to the citizens of the District and pleading with them to implement these measures.
In the meantime, the Grahams are to be commended for their willingness to pursue this matter over three years essentially to hold public officials accountable for their actions. Despite of the verdict in the case of the shooting of their beloved dog Peach, they have done that. All of us in the District, dog owners and others as well, owe them an enormous debt of gratitude.
There were three things about this trial that dog owners and all DC citizens concerned about the police department's misuse of force should be hopeful about.
First, although the MPD has no effective mechanism in place for holding officer's accountable for the shootings of dogs, at least the word is now out that the citizens of DC intend to hold them accountable, no matter what the cost to them. This is why the Grahams and their competent attorney, John Lowe, must be commended.
Second, during the trial, numerous discoveries were brought to light about problems in the MPD with respect to its handling of dogs, its use of force generally and other matters of procedure. Community advocates intend to mine this information and use it to improve the process for the benefit of the community. The information will also be communicated to the officials at the Police Academy to improve its recently initiated training program for recruits. The list of the those discoveries will be posted at this blog soon.
Third, it was abundantly clear to his Blogger that the word is getting about in the MPD about the shooting of dogs, and that is a good sign. For instance, Officer Petersen, during his testimony, frequently and mistakenly referred to Peach as Precious. Precious was the dog brutally killed by MPD officer 431 on May 23rd. (See a posting below.) Since Precious was killed in an entirely different district, the word seems to be spreading among the officers, and Blogger will remain optimistic that this is a good sign, knowing that most MPD officers are compassionate toward animals.
* The DC Government's counsel wanted to argue in court that because the unleashed Peach was probably getting ready to leave her own property, that her owner was in violation of the city leash law even though the property which she was about to enter was jointly owners by the Grahams' and their neighbors and the Grahams had an easement over the property. They wanted to argue that the Grahams had the easement, but not Peach. This is what we are up against in the District. The judge, relying on reason and common sense, denied the introduction of that testimony.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
On Monday, July 28th, the trial of the DC police officer who shot the beautiful dog Peach in August 2005 got underway in the courtroom of Judge Thomas J. Motley in the D.C. Superior Court. The trial is a civil case against the officer brought by Peach's owners, Barry and Palmer Graham, and is meant solely to establish the liability of the officer in shooting Peach. This posting will eventually be revised to include Blogger's observations about the facts and the law brought out in that trial after it concludes, which it is expected to do in a day or so. In the meantime, for those not familiar with the background of the story that first appeared in the Washington Post in August 2005, please click here. (You may also wish to read about the case of the boxed named Scooby shot on Christmas eve and about the dog named Precious who was shot on May 23rd, both of which are expected to go to a trial someday too. If you study those three cases, you will begin to ask yourself, what is going on here?)
If you own a dog in Washington, however the trial of the officer who shot Peach turns out, you might want to read about this sad case (and the other cases) and take one of the suggested actions that will be indicated later on this blog to help put an end to this serious problem.
If you do not own a dog, you still might wish to read about this case because this case has ramifications way beyond just the shooting of a dog. At a minimum, it concerns the cavalier way that the MPD has treated the use of force. Until this posting is finalized, Blogger wishes to give readers several things to think about.
First, every dog owner in Washington, and perhaps many, many more people beyond that, owe a sincere gesture of gratitude to Barry and Palmer Graham for having the courage to bring this civil case against the MPD and the officer who shot Peach. It is Blogger's conclusion that the only reason they brought it was to prevent such unjustified killings of our pets in the future. For too long, the MPD has been shooting our dogs (according to Chief Lanier, about 15 dogs are killed by police each year) without any fear that they would be held accountable. And in fact, of all the cases Blogger has read about, not a single officer was ever even reprimanded or brought to be held accountable for such shootings even though every officer with whom Blogger has spoken (and there have been many) has expressed disgust at the actions of their fellow officers. Because of what the Graham's are doing, however the case turns out for them, many dogs will be spared fates similar to Peach's in the future.
Second, to the credit of Chief Lanier, the MPD has recognized their shortcomings in not providing their officers with any training on how to handle dogs. Thanks to the compassionate and professional response of officers such as Inspector Victor Brito at the Police Academy, the MPD now requires all of its recruits to undergo one day of intensive training at the Academy on handling dogs. In particular, the recruits will learn how to overcome their fear of dogs, how to recognize aggressive behavior in dogs, how to defuse an aggressive dog, and how to apply the Use of Force continuum against an aggressive dog if all else fails. After the new program has been successfully introduced, it will be extended to all officers through the semi-annual range training, roll-call training and distance learning.
Third, despite the expected success of the new program, the facts brought out at the present trial so far have given this Blogger much cause for concern. For instance, the MPD, as represented by the DC Office of Attorney General, believes that the Use of Force Continuum does not apply to the shootings of dogs, even if someone was holding the dog when it was shot (see the story on Precious, elsewhere on this blog). As an extension of that, the MPD believes that it has the right to shoot an unleashed dog, even on the owner's property, if the officer believes it was about the be bitten without regard to how serious the bite might be or without regard to how real that threat was. If you own a dog in the District, these few discoveries alone should give you great cause for concern not only about your dog, but about your own safety also. What should also give you pause is that the DC Attorney's office really wants to win this case. Not only does the new attorney general personally decide which cases will go to trial or not, but he has assigned seven (yes, 7) attorneys to this case. This last fact alone should send up a red flag to not only all dog owners but to all taxpayers.
Blogger truly believes that the overwhelming majority of DC police officers know from their own experiences how to handle dogs and how to utilize the Use of Force Continuum against both dogs and people. However, a majority is not enough to protect your dog. One hundred percent of the police force must learn these things. Until they do, no dog on the street or in its own yard, leased or unleashed, is safe. Unfortunately, not everyone will heed these words and many dogs will die needlessly over the next years until we citizens can fix this problem, hopefully in partnership with the MPD. As for the Use of Force in general, DC was on the Department of Justice's Watch list for excessive use of force by its officers until just recently. Many of us who approach that subject through the eyes of our dogs are still concerned, not only for our own safety or the lives of our dogs, but for others, including the MPD officers themselves.
At a recent community meeting with Mayor Fenty, Blogger raised the issue of the police shooting dogs, and Mayor Fenty agreed wholeheartedly that he will not tolerate unjustified shootings of dogs. City council member such as Mary Cheh, Jack Evans, and Phil Mendelson also have concern for what the city's department is doing to our animals. Blogger also knows that Chief Lanier shares many of these concerns. However, the police force is more than 4000 officers, and each one of them has to be trained in not only how to handle dogs, but what dogs mean to the lives of the people of the District of Columbia. To be sure, we citizens will not be able to stop the malicious actions of some officers, such as the one of shot Precious on May 23rd of this year, but we can go a long way to making those officer accountable for their actions.
Please return to this blog posting soon for some of Blogger's observations on the trial of the officer who shot Peach and what you can do to help stop the MPD from shooting our dogs simply for acting like dogs.
Thank you for reading this blog.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Click here to read and watch the Channel 7 report on the shooting of Precious.
Click here to read and watch the Channel 4 report on the shooting of Precious.
On Friday evening , May 23rd, in Northeast Washington, while a drug bust was in process in the house next door, Michael Bailey's six-year-old dog Precious, who had been with the family since she was 4 months old, was in her yard, tied on her leash to the fron porch. A MPD (Metropolitan Police Department) officer (Badge #431) in pursuit on foot of a drug suspect, ran past Precious' yard, when she started barking from underneath the front gate. The office stopped running, pulled out his firearm and shot at Precious twice, hitting her once. At that point, Michael's fiance Sloane grabbed Precious and held her under control between her legs and shouted "I have her." The officer ignored Sloane's please and yelled , "I'm going to get the bitch," and then shot Precious four more times while Sloane was still holding her. Sloane unleashed Precious to tend to her wounds, at which point Precious ran into the house, and up the stairs to her favorite spot, under Michale's bed, where she died right after. At the time there were about 30 people nearby, including children and elderly people, meaning that anyone of them could have been injured or killed. (Note: Only about three percent of officers' shots hit their target, according to a police official.)
The Washington Humane Society (WHS) was called and after the humane officer took a report, he took Precious' body away. But an hour later, after the WHS officer left, the police officer, in what could only be described as a deliberate act to cover up his shooting of Precious by making the situation look worse than it was, arrested Bailey saying that he had verbally assaulted one of the officers. The officer even wrote on the report that Bailey unleashed Precious on him, while the facts show otherwise.) Bailey admits that he was distraught over the cold-blooded shooting of his beloved dog, but said only such things as, "Why did he have to shoot my dog? How could this happen? The police didn't need to shoot my dog." Bailey says that he cooperated fully and the arrest was very low key. He went peacefully and spent the night in jail. He was given a June 17th court date for the disorderly conduct charge lodged against him. (Note: There are also allegations of racial slurs by the offcier, but these are not inlcuded here.)
Mr. Bailey is a disabled vet who served in the Air Force's military police unit, working with K-9's, which is where he developed his love of dogs. He says about his neighbors are dismayed and shocked, too, because Precious was known all over as a gentle, loving dog. Mr. Bailey cannot afford an attorney to pursue this matter. (Note: a request has been made through the Humane
Society of the United States and the Animal Law Section of the DC Bar for pro bono legal assistance.)
By way of background, in another incident in the area several months ago not involving Bailey, the same officer gained entry into Bailey's home incorrectly thinking there were drugs in there, and detained Bailey and Sloane downstairs. Hearing the commotion downstairs, Precious poked her head out at the top of the stairs and when she saw the officer, she started to run back under the bed. The office then took two shots at her, missing her. Later, when it was clear that the police had the wrong house, Bailey called Precious to him at the time and introduced her to another officer who was also there that time to show her that she was a gentle dog. The gun shot is still embedded in the staircase from that incident. It is suspected that this is why the police officer who shot Precious shouted "I'm going to get the bitch" this time.
If anyone knows of any additional material facts that should be included above, or has knowledge that any of the above facts are wrong, please post a comment below to that effect with information to substantiate those facts. In the meantime, If the above facts are true, this may be one of the worst examples of animal cruelty any of us have seen in the District in years. Cruelty to animals is a felony offense in the District of Columbia and police officers are not exempt from this law.
Click here for the story about another recent shooting of a dog in DC, Scooby, on Christmas eve.
By way of background, you should know:
- Blogger acknowledges that the above "facts" are presented from Mr. Bailey's perspective. However, until an independent, thorough investigation is completed, we will not know what the facts are from the officer's perspective. And the way the process is set up now, where the investigation will be done by a lieutenant in the same district as the officer who shot Precious, the public has no guarantee that such an investigation will ever take place. (See suggested actions, below) However, whatever the true facts are in this situation, the two recommendations for action would remain precisely the same.
- Blogger also fully recognizes that in the "fog" of a nearby criminal incident (such as the drug bust next door), there may be collateral damage involved because an officer's safety must be paramount. And he also recognizes that the overwhelming majority of MPD officers understand how to deal with and respect animals. However, these things should not excuse the actions of a few officers who may require proper training or individual counseling in order for them to carry out their duties to protect the public, and protect themselves at the same time. It also does not mean that those officers have the right to suspend their best judgment during stressful moments on the job.
- DC police officers kill about 12-15 dogs a year, many in the course of criminal incidents. However, by New York's standards, that is very high.
- DC police officers say that they have a right to shoot to kill a dog if they fear it will attack them. (In other words, they believe that they do not have to assess whether it is aggressive, they do not have to attempt to defuse the aggression, and they do not have to use any other means at their disposal to counter the aggression before they use their firearms.)
- The Department of Justice (DoJ) had DC on its watch list of police jurisdictions with records of excessive use of force by its officers from 2001 to just recently.
- The most disconcerting thing about incidents such as what happened to Precious, besides the death of a beloved dog, is the tarnishing of the credibility of all MPD officers because of the actions of a very few. Blogger hopes that people understand that the actions of those few officers, either because of lack of training, fear of dogs, or maliciousness, should in no way reflect on the other 4000 dedicated and trained police officers, many of whom are just as appalled at situations like this as we are.
- The DoJ's Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with DC requires that all uses of force (i.e., shootings) be investigated by a professional Firearms Investigation Team (FITs) so that a through, independent investigation can be made. DC has made one exception to that, when dogs are shot and killed even if people are nearby). In the cases of dogs, the investigation is done by a lieutenant in the same district as the officer who did the shooting. Click here for the full Agreement and click here for the Report of Findings that lead to the Agreement and MOU. (Note,the Agreement is also known as a MOA, Memorandum of Agreement.)
- DC police officers have received little or no training on how to handle dog situations. However, Police Chief Cathy Lanier has recently ordered that a training program be instituted, and one is currently in development for new recruits and current officers.
- Blogger made a statement before the DC City Council on February 25th about the police shooting dogs. At the end of the statement, City Council Member Mendelson thanked Blogger for his statement and said that were it not for his statement, they would not have been aware of this problem.
Please note that Blogger has no connection to anyone involved in this incident. His involvement stems purely from his concern about the plight of our animals in DC, in this case, the plight at the hands of a few DC government officials, who may mean well, but who are unprepared or unqualified to do their jobs.
What you can do (even if you do not reside in DC) to help bring an end to this avoidable killing of our dogs by the people who are supposed to protect us:
1- Write Police Chief Cathy Lanier and request that all uses of firearms by police officers against dogs --- starting with the incident involving Precious --- be investigated by the independent, professional Firearms Investigation Teams (FIT) as the DoJ's MOU requires, and not by a local lieutenant. Chief Lanier's address is: Chief of Police, Metropolitan Police Department, 300 Indiana Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20001 (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.) In your letter, please acknowledge that you understand that the safety of officers must be paramount and thank her for her insistence that officers be trained on how to handle animals, but express to her your concern that all investigations must be thorough in order to solve the problems that still exist in at least a small segment of the police force. Also in your letter, express your dissatisfaction with the police officer's action to arrest Mr. Bailey for disorderly conduct simply because he acted as any person would after a police officer shot his dog in cold blood, as officer #431 did to Precious. Finally, ask Chief Lanier to publish as soon as possible a General Order that deals with police officers handling animals, and that includes a reminder that officers can be prosecuted for acts of animal cruelty they commit off or on duty. (A letter to Chief Lanier is shown at the bottom of this posting.) Click here (or see next postings) for a letter to Chief Lanier. Also, please ask Chief Lanier to forward any substantiated findings of animal cruelty by officer #431 to the U.S. Attorney's officer for criminal prosecution.)
2- Write Mayor Adrian Fenty and express your outrage at the killing of our dogs by the DC police (as well as the Department of Health in carrying out its animal control responsibilities "in the interest of public safety"). Demand that someone in his office be charged with monitoring the situation regarding animals and to make recommendations to improve the situation. Recommend to him that he establish a public Mayor's Alliance for Animals to advise him on issues that affect the welfare of animals in the District. The Mayor's contact information is: DC Mayor Adrian M. Fenty: Fax: 202-727-0505; Call Center Phone: 727-1000; E-mail: email@example.com; address: Mayor of the District of Columbia, One Judiciary Square, Suite 1100, Washington, DC 20001
3- Write or call your city council member and ask them to use their authorities to train and equip the police force to deal with animals, require that investigations of dog shootings be done by the professional FIT's, and that the MPD issue a General Order on the Handling of Animals in general. Also, ask them to oppose the Bill 17-89 (animal protection act amendments) until the provision giving the mayor the authority to declare any breed of dog a dangerous dog is removed because if it is left in, this will in effect give police the license to repeat what they did to Precious with impunity.) Click here for the web site for the city council members. No matter what ward you are from, or even if your are from out of state, please be sure to send a copy of your e-mails to Phil Mendelson (PMENDELSON@DCCOUNCIL.US) who is the chair of the Committee on Public Safety, which oversees the MPD, City Council Member Mary Cheh (MCheh@DCCOUNCIL.US), who is on the same committee and is clearly the champion for animals on the city council, and City Council Member Jim Graham (firstname.lastname@example.org), who sponsored the law that makes animal cruelty in the District of Columbia a felony.
4- Write to the Washington Humane Society (WHS) and request that they undertake an investigation of animal cruelty by the officer who brutally shot Precious. Cruelty against animals is a felony in the District of Columbia and the WHS shares the responsibility for animal cruelty investigations with the MPD. The contact information for the Washington Humane Society is: : Lisa LaFontaine, President and CEO, Washington Humane Society, 7319 Georgia Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20012, (202) 683-1829, e-mail: LLaFontaine@washhumane.org
(Click here for letter to Washington Humane Society asking for an investigaiton of the incident of the shooting of Precious.)
5- Write a letter of condolence and support to Michael Bailey (or leave a message here and we will forward it to him). His address is: Mr. Michael Bailey, 5304 Clay Terrace NE, Washington, DC 20019. Or call him at (202) 398-6504 .
6- If you believe that excessive use of force by some police officers is still a problem in DC, write to the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, and ask them to either reinstate their recently suspended monitoring under their 2001 MOU with the District or initiate a new investigation based on what the shootings of dogs tells us about the adequacy of the measures already taken by the MPD to prevent excessive use of force. The person to write to there is:
MS. SHANETTA Y. BROWN CUTLAR
Special Litigation Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
P.O. Box 66400
Washington, D.C. 20035-6400
7. If you are concerned about the continued shootings of dogs in the District and what that tells you about the adequacy of training and counseling of police officers regarding the use of force, you should file a formal citizen's complaint with the MPD's Office of Complaints, which was established in 2001 as the result of the MOU with the Department of Justice. The complaints can be filed with the Executive Director of that office (a former Assistant U.S. Attorney) Mr. Phil Eure at the following address: 1400 I Street, NW, Suite 700, Washington DC 20005. (Phone: 202- 727-3838.) You do not have to be a party to any incident in order to file a complaint because as a citizen of the District, you have sufficient standing to do so. The web site for the Office of Complaints is www.policecomplaints.dc.gov
8. Write to Stephen Tschida at Channel 7 and thank him for his reporting of the incident about Precious as well as his previous reporting about what some DC officials are doing to our dogs. Were it not for his dedicated reporting, DC officials would be not be held accountable for what they are doing to our dogs. Stephen's e-mail address is: Stephen@wjla.com. Click here to read and watch the Channel 7 report on the shooting of Precious.
Also, Write to Channel 4 (NBC) and thank them for their 5/30 report on this tragic incident. You can contact NBC's website by clicking here. Click here to read and watch then Channel 4 report on the shooting of Precious.
9- If you do not reside in DC, click here to go to a posting that describes what you do to help bring justice for Precious and to prevent this from happening in DC again, as well as in your own communities.
One final comment. The officer who shot Precious probably thought he would get away with it for five reasons:
(1) He knows that officers get no training on how to handle dogs (we already heard his commander essentially admit that on TV) and so the blame could be placed on the lack of training;
(2) Some DC police have said that their officers can shoot a dog if they say they feared that it would bite them;
(3) The officers know that the investigations will be done by their colleagues back at the station;
(4) The officers know that the news cameras never venture beyond the boundaries of the more fortunate DC areas; and
(5) Until now, the MPD never had a police chief who was as sensitive to the plight of animals as much as Chief Lanier is to the plight of the public and the officer corps itself, and a stern, but fair, executive on top of that.
If officer #431 thought these things, he would have been right, until recently, that is.
Please help bring justice about for Precious and help save other dogs (maybe your own) and people in DC in the future by taking some of the above actions now.
As if you needed another message from me with all else you have going on.
Knowing how quickly and positively you and the Police Academy responded to the concern I voiced about the killing of the dog Scooby in December, I was hoping never to have to write to you again about another incident regarding an MPD officer's excessive use of force against an dog, but I was too optimistic. In view of what I just learned today about the shooting of a family dog, Precious, on Friday night, my purpose in writing today is to ask you to consider two additional recommendations beyond the training recommendation to which you so positively responded. I had intended to hold off on these until after the Police Academy's training program was instituted, but I am raising these recommendations now.
I fully appreciate that the facts I learned this morning about Michael Bailey's dog Precious have been reported from his side of the story, but that is all we have to go on and so until we citizens see an independent report, that is all we can rely on. And if the facts as I learned them are true, the situation of police officers shorting dogs is worse than I imagined. A summary of the facts as I received them in an e-mail this morning is shown at the end of this message. Sadly, these facts match another case I had heard about several years ago, which also went unreported, and so I have to believe that these are not isolated incidents.
My first recommendation is that you consider implementing immediately (including with the investigation of the incident of the shooting of Precious) the Department of Justice's (DoJ's) MOU 6/12/01 which says: "In every incident involving a serious use of force, a specialized use of force investigatory team will be notified and will conduct the investigation." I do not read into that clause any exception in the MOU for the shootings of dogs, but I learned after the Scooby incident that indeed all reviews of shootings are done by a specialized FIT, with the exception of the shootings of dogs, in which cases the investigations are done by a lieutenant in the local district. As I read the MOU, the MPD is in violation of that MOU. A "use of force" is a "use of force" by any definition. And an independent investigation is warranted even when a dog is the only victim because it would reveal something that needs to be corrected to avoid similar errors against the public in the future. Moreover, in the case of Scooby, his owner was nearby when the officer shot him, endangering him and anyone else who might have been around, especially since I have learned from one informed DC police official that only about three percent of bullets shot by police officers hit their mark. In the case of Precious, the situation was worse. Not only were there children and elderly people around when multiple bullets were discharged, but the officer shot Precious when she was leased, under control and being held by Mr. Bailey's fiancé, Sloane Lewis. If these facts are true, we all have a serious problem on our hands.
The MOU recognizes that investigations can only be fair and thorough when done by a specialized use of force investigatory team, and the MPD should honor that. It is not the victim or what happened to him or her that is critical in these investigations, but the fact that force was used. The requirement is meant primarily to be prospective. Having a lieutenant in the same district conduct the review serves no useful purpose whatsoever (even though they may be reviewed months later by the review board), and postpones or eliminates the benefits that are supposed to accrue from those reviews, for the officer's sake, and the citizens.
My second recommendation is that you consider assigning someone in the MPD the responsibility for coordinating all matters dealing with animals, and that as a first task, you charge him or her with the responsibility to develop a comprehensive General Order on the Handling of Animals. (I count at least 10 areas that would be covered.) I understand that of the 1200 or so extant General Orders, there may be one dealing with animals, namely, how officers are to deal with people whose dogs are off leash. From a citizen's standpoint, that concerns me, for our and our dogs' safety, and the safety of the officers themselves. Of course, I recognize that you cannot put out a General Order until you back it up with adequate training and equipping of the force, but it least you can recognize that this is a deficiency and task someone with resolving it.
While some might shrug the matter of cops shooting dogs off as a distraction, I know that you do not and I know that many citizens do not. But putting aside the benefit that that might accrue to the city's dogs and their owners, the MPD stands to gain the most, because if there is something seriously wrong in this areas, that tells us that the situation has to be just as deficient in other areas, too. Also, while those of us who are informed know that we are talking about only a handful of untrained --- or even malicious --- officers out of 4000, the public loses confidence in all 4000 because of the actions of a few. It is not the individual officers we see first, it is the uniform. Please do not let the actions of a few tarnish the credibility of the remaining dedicated officers who care about these matters as much as we citizens do. After all, they, too, are citizens.
One final point I wish to offer. The DoJ's MOU also reads that "The [MPD's] Policy also will advise that the use of excessive force will subject officer to discipline and possible criminal prosecution and or civil liability." If what I read about the incident is true, it would be one of the most egregious acts of animal cruelty I have ever heard about in this city. In view of this, and because if I had read what I read about this incident and it involved a private citizen and not a police officer, the first thing that I would do is contact the Washington Humane Society, which shares responsibility under DC laws for investigating cases of animal cruelty, to ask that an investigation be undertaken. Because of the possibility that the facts as I have learned them could be true, by a copy of this message to the Washington Humane Society, I am asking them to undertake such an animal cruelty investigation and that the MPD not interpose any objection to that. While it may go nowhere with the U.S. Attorney's office, that is not the point. If they are not permitted to do that, Precious and Michael Bailey will not be the only victims in this case. Cruelty to animals is a crime no matter who commits it.
I am now concerned that the DoJ's MOU monitoring might have been lifted too prematurely in the District. I know that you are working hard to resolve the issues you inherited, but we citizens do not have the time to wait for you to accomplish it alone, nor do our dogs.
As before, I will offer any help I can to help you resolve these matters. You are heading in the right direction, but Friday's incident shows that there is still a long way to go.
You can return to the main posting by clicking here.