This morning’s Idaho Statesman opinion piece was entitled Our View: Police, dog owners must share responsibility. The unnamed writer was commenting, collectively, on three recent shootings of pet dogs by Idaho law enforcement officers.
The op-ed writer mentioned Coeur d’Alene, so we presume he was including the Arfee killing by a Coeur d’Alene police officer. If so, the writer might want to reread the officer’s account of the shooting. According to the officer, Arfee appeared suddenly in the partially open van window just inches from the officer’s face. In what sounds to us to be a “startle” reaction, the officer fired his already-unholstered weapon once and killed Arfee.
The op-ed writer’s first premise was that in most and maybe every instance, there should be enough time for an officer to carefully assess a dog’s various behaviors and then set a non-lethal course of action. His second premise is that an unattended but lawfully and safely contained dog will always obey commands from a police officer or an animal control officer.
We address the op-ed writer’s second premise first. It’s absurd.
The first premise is very desirable, but it will require the police to do more than just learn dog behaviors. They will need to adjust their approach to various situations so that “startle” reactions are less likely to result in gunfire. In the Arfee killing, we wonder: Why had the officer unholstered his weapon? If his overall assessment of the situation required (in his mind) unholstering his weapon, might there have been actions he and his trainee partner and additional officers could have taken first to preclude the perceived necessity of unholstering his weapon and thereby being at risk of a “startle” shooting?
We admit it: We are second-guessing. Then again, we have little choice. The first guesses — the ones that result in training, policy, and procedures — needed to have been taken by the Idaho Peace Officer Standards and Training Council, the Coeur d’Alene Chief of Police, and the Coeur d’Alene Police Department training officer. Apparently, they weren’t.
OpenCdA wishes that when there are serious incidents like the ones mentioned in today’s op-ed, the Idaho Statesman and the rest of Idaho’s (alleged) news media would focus as much on the failures of command and leadership in Idaho’s law enforcement agencies and the Idaho Peace Officers Standards and Training Council as they focus on the behavior of the individual officer who pulled the trigger.