News stories about police officers killing dogs seem to have become more common in recent years. News web site, Reason, decided to investigate this trend and examined records from the Detroit Police Department. The results were pretty grim. Detroit police officers killed 25 dogs in 2015 and at least 21 so far this year, with certain individuals coming in as worst offenders
. Two officers in particular were responsible for killing more than 100 dogs between the two of them over the course of their careers. And in January, two pups were killed in a narcotics search by an officer who had shot 39 dogs prior to that day. This has been an ongoing issue in Detroit as the police department has been at the center of numerous lawsuits involving canines, two which were settled outside of court.
As if the numbers aren't bad enough, Reason believes that the police department may be hiding just how bad the problem is. The web site's staff found at least seven incidents documented in lawsuits and media reports that were not found in the released records. The Detroit Law Department, which handles public record requests for the city, said it never received those reports, which means the police department either failed to find them or intentionally hid them. The actual number of dogs shot by Detroit police is unknown and potentially much higher than records indicate.
This isn't limited to Detroit. Recently, body cam footage of a Colorado police officer shooting a dog has brought even more attention to this issue. In that case, the officer in question was responding to a call about two aggressive dogs. His body camera footage shows one of the dogs barking towards a police car, the boom of a shotgun, and the yelp of a dog. You can see the American Bulldog, Angelo, scramble away after being shot. The camera also captured an officer saying some derogatory words about Angelo and then later dragging the pup around by his neck.
Just like the majority of Pit Bulls are well behaved, the majority of police officers are not killing dogs. However, it's clear that there is a growing problem throughout the country. Body cameras can help keep police accountable, but it doesn't get at the root cause. For starters, I think police departments need protocol and training on how to handle dogs they may encounter on the job. Most officers don't receive any guidance in this area. I also hope that this spotlight on Detroit will put pressure on other police departments to be more diligent in capturing data on canine deaths and to identify a solution.