Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lethal Force

[inset- Gloria, an example of a family pet killed by police]

This morning I learned of another incident regarding the use of lethal force against a family dog, this time against a 30 pound mixed Boston Terrier Pit Bull. Admittedly, this time the shooting occurred in a parking lot, and some responsibility must fall to the family for failing to keep their pet monitored and secure, it still raises the question of the escalation of danger officers face in the performance of their duties, and how they are to properly respond.

"The use of deadly force is justified only under conditions of extreme necessity as a last resort, when all lesser means have failed or cannot reasonably be employed." (definition from Wikipedia) Certainly, police must protect themselves and others from violent criminals, and because guns can be fired, this necessitates a snap decision in many cases. Guns are drawn and held ready in the event their use is called for.

However, in the case of family pets, they don't have guns. The only way they can hurt a human is to close and use their teeth. Therefore where dogs are concerned, officers should be authorized to use lethal force only when lethal force is used against them, instead of shooting the animals down in cold blood.

Police now have a variety of options that do not require discharging their weapon. I am uncertain whether mace or pepper spray are effective in deterring dogs (I would assume so, given dogs sensitivity to smell.) Tasers are proven in their effectiveness to stop threats and are not necessarily lethal.

We don't need officers who respond to ankle-biters with this kind of stopping power. We need instead officers who use common freaking sense, something that seems to have in many cases, gone by the wayside. The law does support officers who kill family pets. Police have the right to pursue their duties without interference. Lethal force justifies the use of sidearms. Non lethal force does not.

armchair coach
amateur historian

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