Judging from the comments we’re hearing and reading, it sounds as if a lot of people in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and surrounding communities are starting to build a virtual gallows to end the professional career of the Coeur d’Alene police officer who shot Arfee the dog in the parking lot next to Java on Sherman on July 9 in downtown Coeur d’Alene.
OpenCdA thinks calling for the officer’s dismissal is premature.
As we pointed out in our July 11, 2014, post entitled Careless Composition or Intentional Deception?, there was a very substantial amount of evidence available at the scene and associated with the incident. That evidence, properly identified, collected, and preserved, would have given a much clearer and more complete picture of not only what happened but why it happened.
But now we learn from the Sunday, July 21 Coeur d’Alene Press article headlined ‘Critical incident’ protocol not followed in dog shooting that some of the perishable contemporaneous evidence was not collected. Thus the “complete and thorough” internal investigation promised by acting Police Chief Ron Clark is a factual impossibility.
Rather than answering questions, Sunday’s Press article raises others.
The discretionary decision to invoke or not invoke the critical incident protocol was made by whom? That is not a decision made by the officer who fired the shot. Who in the Department had the authority to make that decision, and who actually made it on July 9? At what time on July 9 was the decision made? It had to have been made very quickly, probably within minutes of the shooting, so the necessary steps could be taken to identify and protect the scene and the evidence associated with it — or abandon the scene quickly as apparently happened in this incident.
Sunday’s Press article extensively quoted John Parmann, Idaho Peace Officer Standards and Training’s Region 1 Training Coordinator. According to the article, Parmann said, “Credibility is important in this whole thing. I don’t know what happened out there. I’m relying on a very thorough and objective investigation to find out what happened.” He also said, “If corrections need to be made in procedures, that will be done. It’s a learning opportunity for everyone, the public, agency heads and the people who train the officers and supervise the officers. Everybody has the opportunity to learn from this.”
Well, maybe. There can’t and won’t be a “very thorough and objective investigation to find out what happened” because someone (certainly not the officer who fired the shot) determined there would not be one. Oh, there will be an investigation, but it will not be thorough – it can’t be now. The Coeur d’Alene Police Department abandoned the incident scene before much of the evidence could be identified and preserved. That was not the fault of the officer who fired the shot.
OpenCdA understands the public’s anger and frustration.
But we conclude by restating what we said in our July 11 OpenCdA post: The officer who fired the shot did not act in a vacuum. The action he took on July 9 was a function of the training and supervision he had received up to the moment he pulled the trigger. To the extent his actions were provably contrary to that training and supervision and departmental policies and practices, he was culpable. However, to the extent his actions were a function of incomplete and conflicting training and supervision as well as unclear or imprecise policies and practices, his culpability is shared equally by several above him including his field supervisor and watch commander, the department’s training officer, the department’s command staff, the chief, the Mayor and City Council, and the Idaho Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training.