Pubdate: Sun, 18 May 2014
Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal (NV)
Copyright: 2014 Las Vegas Review-Journal
Author: Esther Cepeda, The Washington Post.
Page: 3D
Bookmark: (Drug Raids)


Citizenry's Ire From Killing of Pets Could Help Stifle Collateral 
Damage in Violent Raids

If Radley Balko is right, it may be the dog lovers of America who 
touched off a movement to rein in the strong-arm tactics that have 
accompanied the militarization of the country's police forces.

Balko, who writes The Washington Post's "The Watch" blog on criminal 
justice issues, says that police these days too frequently shoot 
people's pets when making a raid, and people are becoming fed up.

I recently read Balko's book, "Rise of the Warrior Cop: The 
Militarization of America's Police Forces," after spending some time 
in a firearms class. In that class was a retired policeman who firmly 
subscribed to the "us vs. them" mentality Balko so vividly illustrates.

Starting with a history of law enforcement, Balko follows its tenuous 
flirtation with the norms and practices of the armed forces to 
today's proliferation of SWAT-like local police departments. He 
provides a painful history of the progression from President Richard 
Nixon's War on Drugs through the decades-long erosion of private 
citizens' rights to have their homes treated as sanctuary from 
violence to the all-too-common "collateral damage" incidents that dot 
our news feeds.

No one, and no political party, is spared from a scathing critique of 
the wisdom of soldiering-up local police officers and making violent, 
highly militarized raids everyday occurrences. Notably, Balko's 
sources are less often the innocent victims of botched raids, 
accidental shootings, wrongaddress nighttime blitzes and flash-bomb 
takedowns - or their advocates - though their stories come through clearly.

Mostly, the voices of those speaking out about the dangers of 
invade-and-conquer law enforcement are of professionals in the field 
who either carried out militarization programs themselves or tried, 
in vain, to keep brute force - and its accompanying mindset - from 
encroaching on their beloved profession.

Balko provides seemingly endless examples of state sanctioned 
violence and paramilitary-style policing, even as he fairly portrays 
the danger that law enforcement officials have to deal with in their 
demanding jobs. It cannot be said enough that "Rise of the Warrior 
Cop" is in no way a partisan, overly emotional or pacifist 
anti-police screed - but learning how calloused we've all become to 
this type of enforcement stopped me cold.

Balko cites anecdotal evidence among his network of law enforcement 
researchers and educators showing that too often, people calmly 
accept that unwarranted violations of privacy and violent tactics are 
appropriate for "bad guys," murderers and drug dealers, even their 
wives and children. But they get very angry when they hear about pets 
being harmed and routinely killed.

"At first, that may seem to indicate that people callously value the 
lives of pets more than the lives of people," Balko writes. "But the 
fact that killing the dog during these raids has become nearly 
routine in many police agencies demonstrates just how casually those 
agencies have come to accept drug war collateral damage. When I 
started logging cop-shoots-dog incidents on my blog (under the 
probably sensational term 'puppycide'), people began sending me new 
stories as they happened. Cops are now shooting dogs at the slightest 
provocation. As of this writing, I'm sent accounts of a few incidents 
each week."

The public outcry about pets as collateral damage has actually gotten 
a handful of police departments to mandate training, Balko writes. He 
quotes Russ Jones, a former narcotics officer with the San Jose 
Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Agency: "I don't 
understand it at all. I guess somewhere along the line, a cop shot a 
dog under questionable circumstances and got away with it. Word got 
out, and now it seems like some cops are just looking for reasons to 
take a shot at a dog. Maybe it just comes down to that - we can get 
away with it, therefore we do it."

If Balko gets one point across, it's that the days of law enforcement 
getting away with strong-arm and often deadly tactics in the name of 
maintaining safety and order are coming to an end.

The proliferation of mobile phones with cameras, video that can be 
remotely streamed directly to the Internet, and the instantaneous 
sharing of both through social media are making it so that evidence 
of law enforcement overreach can be preserved as proof.

But first, we have to be aware that these instances of overly harsh 
tactics affect innocent, law-abiding citizens - not just the canine 
kind - and we can no longer afford to accept our civil rights getting 
so blithely trampled.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom