police shoot family dogs, standard procedure

An editorial exhorting police departments not to shoot family dogs, a practice that is standard procedure if the officer feels threatened (even small dogs and on a leash).

Any dog will potentially sound menacing if a threatening stranger is in the yard. It doesn’t necessarily require the use of execution.

More police over-reach, as police departments become more militarized.

On the night of January 24, 2006, Baucum called Culosi and arranged a time to drop by to collect his winnings. When Culosi, barefoot and clad in a T-shirt and jeans, stepped out of his house to meet the man he thought was a friend, the SWAT team began to move in. Seconds later, Det. Deval Bullock, who had been on duty since 4:00 AM and hadn’t slept in seventeen hours, fired a bullet that pierced Culosi’s heart.

Sal Culosi’s last words were to Baucum, the cop he thought was a friend: “Dude, what are you doing?”

Above, a suspect who engaged in petty sports gambling ($50 or so) is entrapped by an undercover detective into making a larger bet. Then, he’s shot for it.

In 2007 a Dallas SWAT team actually raided a Veterans of Foreign Wars outpost for hosting charity poker games. Players said the tactics were terrifying. One woman urinated on herself. When police raided a San Mateo, California, poker game in 2008, card players described cops storming the place “in full riot gear” and “with guns drawn.” The games had buy-ins ranging from $25 to $55. Under California law, the games were legal so long as no one took a “rake,” or a cut of the stakes. No one had, but police claimed the $5 the hosts charged players to buy refreshments qualified as a rake.

Another example.

By the end of the 2000s, police departments were sending SWAT teams to enforce regulatory law. In August 2010, for example, a team of heavily armed Orange County, Florida, sheriff’s deputies raided several black-and Hispanic-owned barbershops in the Orlando area.

Yes, SWAT teams. If you cut hair, make sure you have a valid license; and make sure you’re not black or Hispanic.

Another use of SWAT teams and… Hollywood celebrities? Steven Seagal, among other celebrities, sometimes participate in these home raids, despite a lack of training and professionalism.

Llovera’s suspected crime? Cockfighting. Critics said that Arpaio and Seagal brought an army to arrest a man suspected of fighting chickens to play for the cameras. Seagal’s explanation for the show of force: “Animal cruelty is one of my pet peeves.” All of Llovera’s chickens were euthanized. During the raid, the police also killed his dog.

Animal cruelty is a pet peeve of mine as well, but do we really need SWAT teams (and movie stars) literally driving through our homes unannounced?

The article is long but well worth the read. More stories of peaceful protesters getting arrested, with police wearing shirts with slogans like: “WE GET UP EARLY, TO BEAT THE CROWDS” (probably funnier for non-police officers than for civilians). An account of peaceful protesters getting pepper sprayed while penned in by officers as well.

I’m willing to give cops some leeway here. Maybe the journalists writing these articles don’t have all the facts. But this happens enough that I think there’s more to the story. In particular, a) cops are under stress due to possibility that anyone in this country might have a gun (the US has a lot of guns, including easily concealable handguns); b) cops are used to being in charge and are trained to take control of situations; c) crime has been on the decline in the US since the mid-90s, meaning that cops must “find crime” to justify their jobs, absent significant criminality; d) there are many thousands upon thousands of pages of legislation, meaning the average person likely “commits crime” every day without being aware of it; and importantly, e) there’s the Lucifer Effect, which is the sadistic behavior that some people succumb to when in a position of unchecked power over others.

This is a delicate balance. Police protect society from vicious predators, gangs, and petty criminals alike. Their presence can deter crime before it even materializes. But it’s bad when the police themselves become nearly as bad, or perhaps worse, than your average criminal.

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