Less than a month after Cobb County police officers shot and killed a Smyrna man’s chocolate lab named Luke, a near shooting took place yesterday in Kennesaw when police responded to an errant 911 call placed accidentally by a one year old child.
The incident happened Wednesday morning. A young mother, who wishes to remain anonymous, and her one year old daughter were playing outside in the backyard with their two labs who were tethered to the house. Unknown to the mother, police received a 911 call dialed from her phone by her one year old daughter. Upon arrival, the police officer walked into the backyard unannounced.
Just as most dogs would do, both dogs started barking at the officer and ran towards him. At this point the officer pulled his gun and cornered himself against the house. Instead of retreating back the way he came out of reach from the tethered dogs he started yelling, “Call him off! Call him off or he’s dead!” Once the first lab was pulled away, the second chocolate lab started to approach the officer happily wagging her tail. The officer turned his gun, pointing it to the chocolate lab’s head. The mother pleaded, “Please don’t shoot! She’s not aggressive at all!” Luckily for the mother, her daughter, and the two dogs the officer did not shoot, but came very close to doing so.
All of this happened in front of the mother with her one year old daughter in her arms 15 feet away. The police officer entered the property unannounced, was in no immediate danger, pulled his service weapon out with no regard to the safety of the mother or her daughter, and put several lives at risk. Had the officer simply moved backwards from the way he came out of reach of the tether the dogs were tied to, he could have easily called the mother over to him without putting anyone in danger. Instead we had a near shooting of another dog in Cobb County by police less than a month after a fatal dog shooting in Smyrna. It is clearly obvious that police officers in Cobb County receive no training on how to recognize animals that pose a threat versus those that do not pose a threat. This is somewhat common throughout the country, but things are starting to change.
One major case that received a lot of attention happened in Maryland when police raided the house of the Mayor of Berwyn Heights, Cheye Calvo. The botched drug raid lead to Calvo’s two labrador retrievers being shot dead by SWAT team members. While the Calvo’s were cleared of any wrong doing, they filed suit against the department and the SWAT team members. The suit was settled out of court in 2011 for an undisclosed monetary amount and reforms to SWAT procedures. Another recent case in Frederick, Maryland resulted a jury awarding $620,000 to a couple who’s labrador retriever was shot by a local sheriff’s deputy.
It is cases like these has police departments changing their training procedures. In the city of Austin Texas, Assistant Chief of Police David Carter has enacted new police policy on when deadly force can be used against animals. In addition to the new policy, officers will receive training on how to read the body language of animals to help determine if they are a threat or not.
This is a start in the right direction and at minimum, Cobb County Chief of Police John Houser needs to get on the phone and call Assistant Chief of Police David Carter in Austin Texas to discuss their new policy so that it can be implemented here. I would have thought after the incident in September when Cobb police shot and killed Robby King’s chocolate lab that police would have been a little bit more sensitive and received some sort of briefing on how to interact with animals. Apparently that is not the case.
While it is hard to say whether or not cases like these are on the rise, it does appear that way. Unfortunately, police departments are reluctant to release data on these incidents so determining whether not there is an increase in these incidents is very difficult. Even without the data, these incidents need to decrease substantially. By requiring just a little bit of extra training and changing policy to make the use of deadly force the last resort, I believe these cases can be reduced drastically.