Sunday, August 10, 2008

Dogs Brutally Executed by Sherrff's Office in Prince George's County (MD)

Please click here to go to a posting that concerns the recent tragic shooting of the two black Labrador retrievers by the (Maryland) Prince George's Country sheriff's deputies and please consider taking one or more of the actions indicated to stop this from happening again. Ironically, the shooting took place on the very day of the trial of the DC police officer, Arvette Parry, who was found not liable for shooting the beloved, gentle show dog Peach in her own yard in August 2005. The jury, screened of any dog lovers, wrongly concluded that a police officer can shoot any dog anywhere even if it is just sitting and barking at the officer eight feet away on its own property in the presence of the owner. (See the below still-evolving posting for the story of Peach and the trial.) This trial should be of particualr interest to all dog owners in D.C. because under the test set by District Court Judge Thomas J. Motley for the jury to use in the trial, the police officers in the recent Maryland killings would have done nothing wrong .

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Verdict in Trial of DC Police Officer who Shot Peach in 2005

Date/time last revised: Thursday, July 31st, 11:15 a.m.

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

Trial of Police Officer Who Shot Peach

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

The Police Are Still Shooting Our Dogs, and Here is What You Can Do About It.

The Sad Story of Precious

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: 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:; 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 (, 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:
(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:
Special Counsel
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

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: 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.

Thank you.

The following are the various linked Appendices to the Above Main Posting

1- Letter to Police Chief Cathy Lanier

Here is a recent message sent to Chief Lanier:

Chief Lanier,

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.

4-- Letter To Washington Humane Society

Washington Humane Society
7319 Georgia Avenue, NW,
Washington, DC 20012

RE: Complaint of Animal Cruelty

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing to you as the institution responsible for investigating allegations of animal cruelty in the District of Columbia, a responsibility you share by law with the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). My purpose is to report an alleged incident of animal cruelty of which I have become aware, and to ask that you investigate it and, if appropriate, refer any findings to the D.C. U.S. Attorney's office for criminal prosecution.

The incident to which I am referring involves the shooting of the dog Precious on the evening of May 23, 2008, in the yard of her owner, Michael Bailey, at 5304 Clay Terrace NE, Washington, DC 20019. Although I did not personally observe the incident, I have gathered enough information to believe that a felonious act of animal cruelty might have been committed by the MPD officer (badge #431, I believe) on his way to a nearby criminal incident. Apparently, when Precious, tied up in her own yard, started to crawl under her gate and bark at the officer as he ran by her house, the officer stopped and fired two shots at her, but missed. As Sloan Lewis, the partner of Michael Bailey, grabbed Precious and held her between her legs screaming, "I have her," the officer stopped and fired four additional bullets into her, killing her. There were witnesses, I understand, including children and elderly.

If the facts as alleged are true, this incident would be among the worst incidents of animal cruelty I have heard about in the District of Columbia. As a citizen, I am concerned that if this officer did commit a felony and appropriate action is not taken, other dogs in the District will surely die, not to mention what might happen to nearby individuals, the latter of which is not a legislated concern of yours. Therefore, I am asking that the Washington Humane Society undertake an investigation under its charge to investigate all acts of animal cruelty in the District. I would not be asking for this if this were similar to other instances of police shooting dogs, where officers, untrained to handle dogs and afraid of them, mistakenly believed they were being attacked, or instances where dogs were trained as weapons purposely employed to deflect police officers during criminal busts.

Although I am aware that the WHS shares responsibility for investigating allegations of animal cruelty with the MPD in the District, I am aware of no provision that would preclude the WHS from undertaking this investigation on its own. But, separately, I have requested Police Chief Cathy Lanier to not interpose any objection to the WHS's investigation. Also, I am aware of no provision in the law exempting police officers, on- or off-duty, from the criminal laws of the District of Columbia, including the animal cruelty statutes. Indeed, the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)) between the Department of Justice and the District of Columbia specifically anticipates that they would be subject to those laws: "The [District's] Policy also will advise that the use of excessive force will subject officer to discipline and possible criminal prosecution and/or civil liability". Finally, although the MOU says that "Allegations of excessive force involving a serious use of force. . . will be investigated by the Office of Professional Responsibility, " I do not interpret that provision as precluding the WHS from conducting a concurrent investigation on its own, especially since the MPD seems to have opted to not apply the MOU to incidents involving the shootings of animals, as evidenced by the way it conducts investigations required by the MOU and those involving the shootings of dogs.

Needless to say, I do not expect the WHS to investigate issues such as the use of fatal force where children and elderly were also in harm's way, or whether the dog Precious was interfering with a crime in process, as these issues, it is hoped, will be adequately covered by the investigation conducted by the MPD's professional and independent Firearms Investigation Team, if indeed Chief Lanier orders such an investigation contrary to current procedure, as I have recommended. The current procedure, as you may know, is that investigations of shootings of dogs are conducted by lieutenants in the same districts as the officers who did the shooting, even if people were present nearby and in harm's way. I --- and I know that many citizens of the District of Columbia feel the same way --- am concerned about whether anyone, a police officer or a civilian, has the right to use fatal force against a dog, restrained, on its own property, and under complete control between the legs of its owners, if the dog barks at someone and the person "fears for his life," as Commander Robert Contee said #431 did. The results of your investigation would, of course, be merged with the results of any internal investigations by the MPD and appropriate actions pursed after that. Indeed, if your investigation finds that no act of animal cruelty was involved, it would go a long way to clear the officer's name, although that would certainly complicate matters for the citizens of the District, and their dogs.

Again, I was not an observer to this event. (Until the incident, I knew no one connected with it, and I am submitting this complaint on my behalf alone.) But as a citizen, if I know of an act of cruelty to an animal in the District, I am obligated to report it, and so I am. I am also concerned about the chilling effect that this incident, if uninvestigated, will have on all dogs in the District. Therefore, I would appreciate knowing if your determination is that you are not permitted or authorized to pursue this investigation, so that I can work toward getting that restriction lifted for the future.

Thank you.


9- Suggestion for those who do not reside in DC

For those readers who do not reside in the District of Columbia, we ask that you do three things:

First, with regard to your not living in DC, you may not reside here but the fact is that you are in effect a citizen of the District. All Americans are "citizens" of DC because this is the nation's capital. Therefore, you should go down the entire list of the suggestions in the posting and decide which items best suit how you feel, and then act accordingly. You are under no obligation to state where you are from, but it would help our cause if our officials our knew what citizens of other places feel about us. In particular, I would write to MPD Chief Lanier, and city council members Mendelson (the chair of the committee on public safety, which oversees the MPD), and Mary Cheh, who is the chief advocate for animals on the city council. and Jim Graham, who sponsored the felony animal cruelty act.

Second, you might consider writing your own congressional representatives and senators, and tell that that you are appalled that this is going on in the nation's capital and ask them to file a complaint with Mayor Fenty on behalf of the citizens of your state to bring this barbaric activity to a halt. Many congressional representatives live in DC and some serve on committees that provide oversight to the District. Write a suggested letter for your representatives and senators and send that to them to sign and send off. (I will post below a suggested letter later).

Third, you can take the lessons from what we are trying to accomplish in DC and apply them to your own cities, counties and states. If you dig deeply enough, you will find similar cruelty elsewhere, but much of it does not make the press, as was the case in DC until just recently. The DC government now knows they are being watched. In Prince Georges' Country in Maryland, for instance, just over the border from DC, this kind of blood bath has been going on almost daily ever since they banned from the city pit bull dogs and mixes and look-alikes a few years ago. For instance, you can read an account of a recent incident there by clicking here.

By the way, the police shooting our dogs is not the only problem we have with animals (dogs) and our government here. Until just recently when a new head of our local humane society took over, on order from our Department of Health, all pit bull strays were killed in our animal shelter, puppies and pregnant mothers alike, because they were never not evaluated for adoptability. But that reprieve is sure to come to an end if a bill now pending before our city council gets approved. That bill would give the mayor the authority to declare any breed of dog he wants a dangerous dog, which could very well mean that the police would be "authorized " to deal with them as they wish. (See In the meantime, our Department of Health, which is responsible for animal control, is ordering the execution of our dogs simply for biting other dogs, even non-serious bites, as long as vindictive owners of the injured animals say the want the biting dogs killed. (See or The list goes on.

Thank you for caring about the situation here in DC. The more people who speak up, the faster we will bring this bloodshed to an end. And not only bloodshed, but also protect the reputation of the other some 4000 police officers who are dedicated and hardworking, and who care about these issues as much as you do.

Suggested letter to your U.S. congressional representative/senators apears below:

You can return to the main posting by clicking here.

Dear Congress(man/woman) or Senator ________________:

I am writing to you as one of your constituents about a tragic incident that occurred on May 23rd in the nation's capital that I would hope you would raise your voice over.

The incident involved what appears to have been a wanton act of animal cruelty which, if true, would be a felony under the laws of the District of Columbia. In that incident, a police officer chasing a drug suspect, stopped his pursuit when a dog named Precious, on a leash tied to her porch and in her own fenced-in yard, barked at him. The officer then fired two shots at Precious, hitting her once. When the Precious' owner grabbed her and held her between her legs, yelling to the officer, "I have her," the officer yelled back, "I am going to get that [dog]," and then shot Precious four more times. Precious then ran back into her house, hid under a bed, and died. An hour later, the officer arrested Precious' owner, Michael Bailey, for disorderly conduct because of the way he conducted himself after the officer shot and killed his dog. Mr. Bailey spent the night in jail, the night his dog died.

I understand that these allegations may be already under investigation by both the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and the Washington Humane Society, but I still believe that anyone with a connection to Washington must speak out on this abhorrent act of animal cruelty so that justice is done and the wanton killings of dogs everywhere by our police officers do not go unnoticed. Washington, D.C., is not the only municipality with this problem. Therefore, I am asking you, on behalf of your constituents, to write to Mayor Adrian Fenty and ask that through and complete investigations be undertaken, that any act of animal cruelty involved in this case be pursued vigorously, and that measures be taken to prevent these killings from happening again. I am attaching a suggested letter for your or your staff to send to the Mayor.

What makes this matter particularly bad is that the MPD was on the Department of Justice's watch list for seven years as one of the police jurisdictions known for excessive use of force, and was just recently released from the special monitoring two months ago. But as long as these activities are going on in the District by its police officers, the District of Columbia is not a safe place for any of us to visit.

Thank you for reading this letter and taking the action I am requesting.


Suggested Letter from Congress(man/woman)/Senator:

Honorable Adrian M. Fenty

Mayor, District of Columbia

One Judiciary Square

Suite 1100

Washington, DC 20001

Washington, D.C.

Fax: 202-727-0505; E-mail:

Dear Mayor Fenty:

My constituents and I were both shocked and saddened to read about the apparent senseless shooting of the dog named Precious on May 23rd by a Metropolitan Police Officer (MPD). If the allegations against the officer who did the shooting are true, this is not the kind of activity that we would expect to see in our nation's capital, a city of which we are all citizens. Moreover, it gives our citizens such a negative view of this great city that some of they may choose not to visit it, and that would be wrong.

My hope is that you have ordered or will order a thorough and fair investigation of the allegations about the May 23rd shooting and, should the findings show that there indeed was an act of cruelty to animals involved, that you make sure that those findings are referred to the U.S. Attorney's office for prosecution. Police officers everywhere must understand that they are there to protect and serve the public and that if they commit crimes in the course of carrying out their responsibilities, they, too, will be prosecuted. And our nation's capital should serve as a model for not standing for illegal activities by its police officers.

Behind the taking of the life of an innocent dog, the tragedy of this incident is that the reputations of the thousands of other dedicated, brave police officers could be tarnished because of the actions of a few, and that, too, would be wrong.

Thank you.


Friday, May 23, 2008

There are no further postings or appendices below this point on the Shooting of Precious

But please feel free to continue scrolling down this site for past postings on other issues facing dogs in DC.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Please Help Save Bubba From Being Killed by Washington DC City Officials

Please go to to learn how you can help to save a dog from death row in Washington, D.C.

Bubba, a gentle, 2-year old neutered yellow lab dog with no record of any aggression to people, dogs or prey, was accidentally let of of his yard by a workman on March 17th. On the street, he encountered and then got into a fight with another dog. Shortly after that, Bubba was seized by city officials and he has been impounded on death row ever since. Now, the District of Columbia wants to put Bubba to death. Bubba's only crime was to act like most dogs would and defend himself.

It seems that the District of Columbia, one of the most dog-unfriendly cities in the country, cannot tell the different between an accident and an irresponsible act, between a dangerous dog and a common dog fight, between due process and miscarriage of justice. Moreover, the city's department of health, which is responsible for animal control (no one in the city government is responsible for animal welfare), has a reputation for bowing to pressure from influential city council members and citizens.

Bubba needs your help. Please take the time to visit the above site and take whatever action you can to help out. The next time, this could be your dog.

Thank you.

Monday, March 3, 2008


Mr. Chairman. Good morning. I have been a resident of the District of Columbia for 29 years. I am appearing today in my capacity as a private citizen and as an advocate for animals. Thank you for the opportunity to address an issue that is important to more than 20 percent of the citizens of the District of Columbia.

My sole purpose here today is to comment on my extremely favorable reaction to MPD Chief Cathy Lanier's and the Police Academy's prompt response with plans for a training program to address what is a low frequency but high impact, high risk problem. To put my comments on the MPD's very positive response in perspective, I will first describe my limited view of the problem, which is the unwarranted shootings of dogs by police officers in the District of Columbia.

I must say at the outset that the problem is not personal to me. My experiences with the MPD have been extremely favorable in the 29 years --- 25,000 walks --- I have walked my dogs in the District, a city, as you know, that is essentially without dog parks. My involvement with the problem stems from my concern for animals, and I believe that an unwarranted shooting of a dog by anyone is a form of animal cruelty. My contacts with this problem have been several.

In early 2005, after hearing about a horrific incident involving of a Montgomery Country police officer shooting a dog on its own stoop, I conducted an informal survey of several dozen police officers from various agencies functioning in DC to find out what kind of training they received on how to handle dogs. All except one said they received no training. The one exception -- not an MPD officer -- smiled and pointed to his gun. Several months later, in July 2005, I reported the results of this survey in a letter to the editor published in The Washington Post concerning another horrific incident involving an Arlington County police officer and an animal. I concluded that letter by writing that similar such incidents will occur unless " law enforcement departments, animal control centers, and humane societies join together to deal with the matter of training and equipping officers to deal with animals," for their own protection as well as for the protection of citizens and animals.

A month later, another incident did occur, this time just blocks from where I live in DC. As reported in The Washington Post, a MPD officer responding to a false burglar alarm in broad daylight in Georgetown, shot and killed a Weimaraner dog named Peach in her own yard. The officer said that Peach was attacking her. In response to this incident, I wrote the Mayor, urging the city to follow the lead of other police jurisdictions in implementing programs to train officers on how to handle animals in general, and dogs in particular, for the protection of the officers as well as citizens and their dogs. A month later, I received a somewhat tepid response from a mid-level person at the now-Police Academy thanking me for my suggestions, ensuring me that police were trained on how to handle animals, and inviting me to offer further suggestions in the future. (To the Academy's credit, I learned just recently that they did in fact purchase the police-training film I recommended --- "What Dogs Are Telling Cops" --- and incorporated it into the required annual firearm training.)

In September 2006, a dog named Princess was shot to death in a very crowded Dupont Circle in broad daylight by a Park Police officer. The officer, who said Princess was attacking him, was exonerated, even though not a single person at the scene reported that the dog was acting aggressively.

In July 2007, an MPD officer responding to a dog-bites-dog incident in Adams Morgan was getting ready to shoot the larger dog, Sidney, even though the situation was under control when she arrived. Cooler heads prevailed and Sidney was spared.

On the evening of last December 24th, a two-year-old boxer named Scooby was shot to death by an MPD officer responding to am unrelated complaint on the property of West End's Frances Junior High School in a de facto, off-hours dog park, frequented even by police officers and their dogs. The officer said that Scooby was attacking him.

Finally, on February 22nd, Channel 7 reported an incident involving a police officer and dogs that took place in a Georgetown park earlier that week, fortunately without a serious outcome. The details of the incident are not relevant to the problem here except for several statements made by the police officer and his commanding officer, which characterize precisely the nature of the problem of concern to me. In that incident, the officer, who was legitimately responding to a separate complaint about off-leash dogs in a park, encountered a woman in the park with her elderly dogs off leash. In the ensuing conversation, the woman alleges that the police officer told her that "he could have shot the dogs if he wanted to if he felt threatened." (Later, in a phone conversation with Channel 7, the officer's commanding officer commented that "officers are allowed to discharge their weapons against an animal only if their safety is threatened. . . But . . . that is a very subjective thing to determine.") Also, during the incident, the woman said that the police officer told her that he was once bitten by a Jack Russell terrier, and "so he now carries his gun with him when he goes jogging."

When I heard these last comments, surprised that these were the official lines of the MPD two months after the shooting of Scooby, I inquired about the status of the internal review regarding Scooby's shooting. What I learned was that Scooby's owner was notified (by a voice-mail message) that the shooting of Scooby was justified because his dog was attacking the officer. This, despite the fact that there was absolutely evidence to corroborate an attack, among other things.

It seems evident to me that we DC citizens have reason to conclude that the MPD's policy is that if an officer believes that a dog --- on public property or its own property --- is threatening him, the officer is permitted to kill the dog with his firearm. In other words, an officer is not required to assess (albeit, quickly) whether a dog is truly aggressive, is not required to attempt to defuse the aggression by proven means, and is not required to consider less lethal means of force besides his or her firearm, as would be required by the Department of Justice's Memorandum of Understanding on The Use of Force.

For the years I have been walking my dogs in DC parks, those of us with non-aggressive dogs on public --- or private --- property had only to fear getting a ticket if we had the dog off leash. Now, it seems, the penalty is having our dogs shot by the police. There is something fundamentally wrong with this.* I think a lot of people would support me if I reacted to this by saying: No, a police officer would not be justified in shooting a dog simply if he feels threatened by it. There should be more to it than that. No, the matter is shooting a dog should not be a subjective matter, it can be very much an objective matter with the property training. And No, a police officer should not be justified in taking his gun with him when he goes jogging to defend himself against dogs. (If the latter were the case, shouldn’t the District drop its ban on handguns and let all of us arm ourselves against aggressive dogs? Few, I hope, would argue for that, especially police officers.)

I do not believe that any of the above statements --- or shootings for that matter --- by the police officers were expressions of bravado on their part, but genuine admissions that they do not know what to do in situations regarding seemingly aggressive dogs. Fortunately, the problem of police officers shooting dogs in the District is not a high frequency occurrence, but it is a high risk, high consequence matter, especially to the dog that is shot and its owner. I understand that DC police shoot about 12 - 15 dogs a year, mostly in the course of incidents involving criminal activity. Part of that is due to the comparatively low percentage ownership of dogs in the District (about 23%, according to a recent USA Today article), but also because, fortunately, most DC police officers do not fear dogs and know how to handle them from their own personal experiences. But I would venture to guess that even 12-15 dogs a year by best practice standards is still high, and one unwarranted shooting is one too many. Incidentally, I do not know what the frequency is of dogs biting police officers in the District, but my guess is that it is not very high. However, I admit that the wrong dog can do serious damage to a person, especially a child, and can be a serious distraction during a criminal incident.

After the Scooby incident in December, I wrote a letter to the Mayor, again urging the city to put in place a program for police officers on how to handle dogs, for the officer's own protections, and the protection of citizens and their dogs. Within just a few days, I received a message from Police Chief Cathy Lanier, thanking me for my comments and inviting me to partner with the Police Academy to help improve the MPD's training in this area. As I wrote Chief Lanier, her prompt, positive and forward-looking response was quite a remarkable, especially compared to the tepid response I received three years ago after the shooting of Peach, and especially with everything else she has on her plate. Within minutes of Chief Lanier's message, I received a call from Inspector Brito at the Police Academy, inviting me to visit the Academy to discuss the matter further, which I did and will continue to do if I can be of help. My comments in the below letter published in The Georgetown Current sum up my favorable reaction to the Chief's and Inspector's response:

Two years ago, after the shooting of the Weimaraner Peach on Foxhall Road, I made several recommendations to the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) to introduce training for its officers on how to handle dogs. This training was meant primarily for the officers' own protection, which has to be paramount. Immediately after the shooting of Scooby, I resurrected those recommendations without trying to judge what might have happened in Scooby's sad situation. With everything else going on, MPD Chief Cathy Lanier responded immediately with a positive, forward-looking message and invited me to visit the Police Academy to discuss my recommendations with them, which I did. I was impressed that they had indeed instituted my previous recommendations, and was even more impressed with the positive reaction of the Academy's director, Inspector Victor Brito. I am, therefore, confident that the MPD will achieve Chief Lanier's stated goal, which is to have the best Use of Force police department in the country. The training would help officers determine truly aggressive behavior in a dog, provide officers with techniques to defuse aggressive dog situations, and then offer levels of force appropriate to the actual threats.

On the basis of what I have seen so far, my expectations for a successful training program are high, but it is only now in the planning stage. But I shall remain optimistic that a model program will emerge to the point of saying that if the MPD's response to the shooting of Peach three years ago was anything like Chief Lanier's and Inspector Brito's this year, it is highly likely that the shooting of Scooby would not have occurred.

I have to qualify my enthusiasm, however, with two points, both outside of the jurisdiction of the Police Academy. First, from what I know, there is mo MPD General Order on the matter of handling animals in general and dogs in particular. It seems to me that such an order would serve a very useful purpose for everyone and cover more than just the topic of concern here. And, second, surprised that the internal review in Scooby's incident concluded as it did, especially given the highly-trained, independent teams that are supposed to do such investigations, I looked into the matter further. As it turns out, I learned that investigations of the use of firearms where only dogs are involved are not done by the FITs (Force Investigation Team), but by lieutenants in the districts where the dog shootings occurr, even though there may have been people nearby. I would strongly encourage the MPD to change that policy, and refer ALL incidents of discharges of weapons to the FITs. Otherwise, nothing is learned and the effects of the Police Academy's training program will be diluted, if not eliminated. The primary benefit of the FIT reviews should be to improve the quality of the MPD to ensure the public's and the MPD's safety, but if they are not done thoroughly and independently, that benefit may be lost and the wrong message sent, as seems to be the case now.

Looking beyond the above two loose ends, I highly commend Chief Lanier and the Police Academy for their excellent response to the need for an improved training program for officers on how to handle dogs. But I also commend the overwhelming majority of the officers who over the years have dealt with our dogs and kept them out of harm's way because of their own experiences. Finally, I would urge the City Council to support the MPD's efforts by adequately funding and prioritizing them and enacting legislation that supports solving the basic problem.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

* There is no question but that keeping a dog on its leash as the law requires (on public property) will reduce the risks of its getting shot. But from an officer's perspective, the question should not be whether a dog is leased or not, or on public or private property, but is the dog a threat and what means should be used to defuse the threat?

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Read This First

Blogger has been extremely impressed by the prompt, positive and forward-looking reaction to this incident on the part of Police Chief Cathy Lanier, Inspector Victor Brito (director of the Police Academy) and his staff, and City Council members Jack Evans and Mary Cheh, especially with all else that is going on in the District that drains police resources. As we learn of specific measures taken to improve, where warranted, training for police officers on how to handle dogs (and animals in general), they will be posted here (see below message from Jack Evans to constituents). Inspector Brito's goal is to make DC's training a best practice and Blogger is encouraged that that will be possible. The MPD knows, however, that all of us believe that the safety of police officers on the street is of paramount importance, and it is in that spirit that suggestions for change have been offered.

E-mail message from Jack Evans to constituents:

Everyone is very shocked and saddened by the shooting of Scooby in Foggy Bottom at the end of the year. Besides, the senseless loss of a pet, it raises a lot of questions about public safety as an innocent bystander could easily have been hurt.

I’ve been in touch with both Scooby’s owner and MPD Chief Lanier. We are all very committed to preventing something like this from happening again. My office and I are working with the Washington Humane Society (WHS) to set up a formal training program in honor of Scooby. WHS is providing specially produced videos focusing on “police to dog shootings” and hands-on workshops to officers in dog behavior, learning how to read the body language dogs display and non-lethal defensive tactics in the event an officer feels threatened.

Chief Lanier is also planning additional training during their Roll Call Training modules and their 2008 pistol re-qualifications.

I want to thank everyone who’s been interested in this important matter and especially [concerend citizens] who met with MPD and offered specific recommendations to avoid this happening again.