(ANIMAL WELFARE/OP-ED) Cases of police brutality on the innocent are surfacing all over the United States. Whether cops shoot dogs and the mentally ill over concern for their own safety, or because they have itchy trigger fingers, doesn’t change the emotional impact these incidents emit.
Protecting the public should be priority number one on a police officer’s agenda, especially the most innocent members of our community: pets, animals, and mentally disabled humans. But police officers using excessive force on the vulnerable have been prominent news stories in recent months, with the majority ending in tragedy.
The most heartbreaking stories involve police encounters with pets or the mentally ill. It’s hard to forget the July shooting of young Rottweiler, Max, in Southern California; video of which has since gone viral on YouTube, and just last month, Texas resident Bobby Gerald Bennett was shot without reason as he climbed out of his wheelchair. Dallas police originally claimed Bennett attacked them, but surveillance footage contests their statement.
Certainly, officers must look out for their own safety, but is lethal force always necessary? Do police really need to shoot a Chihuahua when called to a crime scene? Or shoot an already leashed dog?
When people and animals who can’t comprehend the severity of a situation come in contact with the police, the officers shouldn’t “shoot first ask questions later.” Although some departments provide special training on handling both dogs and the mentally disabled, the sheer number of shootings leaves no doubt that most departments are in desperate need of an overhaul in training and procedures.
Even the United States Postal Service trains their employees to handle dogs better than the police force. Postal workers are continually taught to subdue dogs with toys and voice commands, only reverting to the use of Mace on the most uncooperative of animals. Some departments have taught their officers to identify a dog’s body language to determine if the animal is threatening.
It’s time to reel in the gun-toting super-cops, and teach them when to keep their weapons holstered.
Below are pictures of dogs and humans, most of whom have met tragic ends at the hands of police ignorance and recklessness. These tragedies simply shouldn’t happen, and with the proper training, can be avoided in the future.
— Anthony Armentano, exclusive to Global Animal