When Cops Kill The Vulnerable: Force Or Failure?

Sad black labrador
Stories of police brutality against the vulnerable have been shockingly abundant over the last few months. Photo Credit: Flickr

(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.

Incidents involving police officers shooting dogs have been abundant in the news as of late.
Stories of police brutality against the vulnerable have been shockingly abundant over the last few years. Photo Credit: Public Affairs Books/Jenna Pope

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.

Sad black labrador
Stories of police brutality against the vulnerable have been shockingly abundant over the last few months. Photo Credit: Flickr

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

Hawthorne resident Leon Rosby watched police officers gun down his dog Max in a now infamous YouTube video. Rosby continually pleaded for Max's life on camera. Photo Credit: YouTube
On October 14, Texas resident Bobby Gerald Bennett was shot by police after they claimed Bennett lunged at them to attack. A neighbor's surveillance footage tells a different story entirely, and shooting officer has since been fired and charged. Photo Credit: Joyce Jackson
In January 2010 a chocolate lab named Brandi was shot by a Maryland police officer, but her story ends better than most. Brandi suffered severe damage, but ultimately lived. Last year, a Maryland judge awarded Brandi and her family over $600,000 Photo Credit: Jenkins Family
In February Robert Saylor died in a movie theater under police restraint after refusing to leave a second screening of "Zero Dark Thirty." The case has since been ruled a homicide. Photo Credit: Facebook
Last month Holly Woody returned hom to find that her dog had been killed by police. Her neighbors reported that there was never any cause of lethal force, and Woody's dog was known throughout the neighborhood and especially firendly. Photo Credit: WBTV
Wheelchair-bound Brian Claunch was shot in the head by Houston police after an officer saw Claunch holding what later turned out to be a pen. Photo Credit: The Guardian
Scout was cornered by Michigan police before being shot multiple times in the head. A neighbor reported the dog never provoked the officer, who walked on to the property unannounced. Photo Credit: WNEM
The brutal beating of Kelly Thomas by California police in 2011 received national coverage. Surveillance footage shows Thomas, a schizophrenic, jumped by a number of officers. He died of his injuries 5 days after the assault. Photo Credit: Thomas
Video shows Colorado police capturing Chloe on a catch pole right before an officer fires four unprovoked shots at her. The officer in question was later tried for the crime, but ultimately acquitted Photo Credit: Gary Bronson