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  • Going to the Dogs

    Posted by James R. Rummel on September 8th, 2008 (All posts by )

    I form very strong emotional attachments to my own dogs. They are all rescues that I collect starving and injured off the street. (Three at a time is my limit, so don’t get the impression that I’m like one of those crazy cat ladies.)

    But speaking as someone who has actually worked in law enforcement, I can say that dogs are merely chattel. Property. My own dogs might be very dear to me in a personal sense but they are all mixed breed strays, which means that they are particularly worthless property at that.

    This post alerted me to a news story where a police officer in Texas pulled a car over. It seems that the driver was rushing his choking dog to the pet clinic, and he managed to reach a speed that was close to 100 MPH (160 KPH).

    The officer was uncaring and flippant, and he kept the motorist by the side of the road for 15 minutes. Both the journalists who report the story, as well as the comments at the blog post that discuss it, seem to think that an egregious breach was committed by the cop. The facts of the matter are that the officer might well have shown more tact, but he was essentially correct in his actions because he was doing his job and safeguarding lives. Human lives.

    This is an example of something I’ve been noticing a lot more recently. People seem to be quicker to complain about whether or not they feel insulted when they interact with the police.

    The core of law enforcement is to get people to stop doing what they really want to do, which means police officers have to establish the fact right away that they are in the dominant position. There is no negotiation involved, what the cop says is what is going to happen at the time. It is the role of the courts to sort it out if those arrested think that the officer stepped out of bounds.

    I can attest from my own personal observations that trying to be a nice guy when dealing with someone who has done wrong increases the chance that they will resist. While there is a very fine line between being in control and being a jerk, it is vital to everyone’s safety that the officer approach each public interaction with a “Me boss, you not!” attitude. Doing otherwise may actually increase the chance of violence.

    Administrators in charge of law enforcement agencies are under a great deal of pressure to reassure the public when the whingeing gets too loud. They walk a fine line themselves, since they have to make a show of taking these complaints to heart while also reassuring their officers that they will back them if they do their jobs right.

    Take a look at the news article concerning the choking dog, and watch the video. The reporters say that the officer received “counseling from his superiors”, which was probably a word from one cop to another about how acting excessively rude in front of a dashboard camera was not a smart thing to do in the YouTube era. But they also say that the officer received a reprimand, which seems to me like the chief was going a bit too far to make this mini scandal disappear.

    But, then again, I am not familiar with that particular department. Maybe it really is against policy in Austin to be rude when someone puts innocent lives in danger.

     

    8 Responses to “Going to the Dogs”

    1. TJIC Says:

      First, I acknowledge that the law, as it stands, sees dogs as chattel, and mixed breed dogs as worthless chattel.

      I disagree with the law as it stands and would like to see it changed.

      If I take the last picture of your mother (and there are no negatives, scans, etc.) and burn it, the replacement cost is not one thirty cent print at the pharmacy.

      Second, the problem with “He was putting human lives at risk, therefore the his actions must be stopped immediately, with zero leeway” is that EVERYONE who drives on the road puts the lives of others at risk. I would be entirely protected from double car accidents if every other driver stayed home. This viewpoint fails to look at both costs and benefits. To take a less extreme example, everyone driving over 20 mph puts lives at risk, therefore we should drop the speed limit to 20mph.

      In the end, you are left arguing that the government, a body notoriously bad at making tradeoffs between different goods and notoriously bad at determining the different values that people put on goods and services, is correct in picking 55mph as the speed limit, despite the fact that the interstates and the autobahns were designed to support speeds of 100mph … coincidentally, the exact speed that the dog owner was driving in this case. Actually, I should not say “coincidentally”, because study and study has shown that people tend to drive at speeds that feel safe to them – the de facto speed limit on most roads correlated very well with the highway engineer design speed, and has little relation to the government mandated speed limit.

      I wish you would have addressed the core point of my post over at tjic.com, which is not that OBJECTIVELY dogs are worth X, but that SUBJECTIVELY a dog may be worth X to a given person, and that person has the moral right to negotiate with other users of the road for priority access in a way that preserves their safety.

      Caring about my dog more than I care about your brother is not only my right, but through the mechanism of the market, there’s a way to reconcile our various opinions on the matter.

      I’ve said before, cars should have a knob on the dashboard, and if as you turn it up, you’re bidding and buying rights to pass people, to have lights turn green for you, etc.

      …and other folks are selling those rights to you.

      Have a wife about to deliver, or a dog choking, and you turn up the knob.

      If driving way over the speed limit endangers other folks on the road, then at the highest setting, you’re bidding to get people to pull off the road entirely.

      I mean, cops drive way over the speed limit in emergencies all the time.

      …so obviously there are situations which demand it.

    2. ParatrooperJJ Says:

      What if it had been a police dog? I have no doubt that a cop would have been taking it to the vet with lights and sirens blazing.

    3. Stan Says:

      Wow what an incredible display of bureaucratic myopia. Intones the voice, “The law must be obeyed because the law is the law.” Laws are passed by flawed human beings who produce a flawed product. Did you really believe that it was the intent of your state’s legislature to empower a police officer to allow, no require family pets to strangle to death?

      Perhaps you think I am missing the point about public safety. No I am not. I simply don’t care about some idiotic law, that no one obeys anyway, being broken when a family member (be it non human) is in the back seat strangling to death.

      This is an example of something I’ve been noticing a lot more recently. People seem to be quicker to complain about whether or not they feel insulted when they interact with the police.

      Well perhaps it is because that special place of trust we hold for police officers is being abused as we are finding out more about how police officers actually use the authority entrusted to them. Everything from no knock raids to shoddy handling of evidence lets the public know that you folks are not perfect. Every time an offence occurs and the public sees that their concerns are dismissed with a slap on the wrist, that public trust is further eroded. Perhaps you and other officers need to be reminded on occasion that you are not perfect. A little courtesy from a man with a gun and empowered to take lives will go a long way to reassuring the public that this particular man with a gun “gets it.”

      Let’s take a minor example, everyone has seen a police cruiser with no flashing lights speed past breaking the posted speed limit. I used to assume that this was a requirement of the job. That the particular officer needed to cover more ground in order to do his job properly. These days there is always that thought in the back of my mind that the police break the law because no one will call them on it, because that they believe they are effectively above the law.

      Stan

    4. James R. Rummel Says:

      “I disagree with the law as it stands and would like to see it changed.”

      Until that time, you are still going to face a penalty for ignoring laws at your whim.

      “In the end, you are left arguing that the government, a body notoriously bad at making tradeoffs between different goods and notoriously bad at determining the different values that people put on goods and services, is correct in picking 55mph as the speed limit, despite the fact that the interstates and the autobahns were designed to support speeds of 100mph…”

      So you actually think that the police on the street should be allowed to interpret the law? They should decide what to enforce and what to ignore, even though their job is to enforce existing laws?

      James

    5. Don Says:

      So you actually think that the police on the street should be allowed to interpret the law? They should decide what to enforce and what to ignore, even though their job is to enforce existing laws?

      James,
      Officers interpret the law every day. They interpret it when they fail to pull over a driver going 5 mph over the speed limit, they interpret it when they write a ticket for a speed less than the speed the driver was going, they do it when they fail to pull over the driver guilty of a rolling stop, etc, etc, etc, etc, et-bloody-cetera. I haven’t seen the video and have no intention of doing so, but if the officer deliberately dragged out citing the driver he is almost certainly guilty of animal cruelty. And his collegues are interpreting the law by not arresting him.

    6. Shannon Love Says:

      Maybe it really is against policy in Austin to be rude when someone puts innocent lives in danger.

      The Austin police department basically collapsed about 2 years. Years of mismanagement lead to severe training and selection flaws. The entire department is in the process of being revamped. The straw that broke the camels back came when an officer was caught on camera screaming at motorist who he thought was to slow getting out his ID (he wasn’t). So, unfortunately, this kind of incidents isn’t as rare as we would like it to be.

      IIRC, the law in Texas allows one to speed in an emergency if you put your hazard lights on. An officer is supposed to follow you to your destination without stopping you.

      From the article, I imagine that the cop simply did not believe that the dog was choking. Given how often people lie to police, even over minor matters such as traffic tickets, police are primed to assume that anyone caught breaking will lie to them.

      I can attest from my own personal observations that trying to be a nice guy when dealing with someone who has done wrong increases the chance that they will resist.

      I think that very true. Unfortunately, trying to dominate someone who doesn’t think they’ve done anything wrong also provokes a reaction. I think there has been an all around decrease in civility and that cops take the brunt of it. In response they’ve grown increasingly aggressive themselves.

      I’ve always taught my kids to be ruthlessly polite with all authority figures but on the other hand to let them exceed the bounds of their authority.

    7. Eric Says:

      Sorry James, the line between being a jerk and being firm and professional is not all that narrow or difficult, and when one cop crosses it, they all suffer for it — and this is not necessarily bad. Cops need to reign in the jerks in their midst, or suffer the consequences, just like any other professions. Unfortunately, there are too many documented stories of just the opposite happening. Go google for cops covering for drunken cops — most recently and notably, a certain ex-brother-in-law of a VP candidate Alaskan state trooper. These kind of things don’t apply to the majority of cops, but they are not rare either, and it is the impression and apparent fact that the majority of cops will cover for their out-of-control brethern that accounts for the public wanting to string up a jerky police officer when he is finally and publicly caught.

      Note for example, that Alaskan trooper — drinking and driving in a patrol car, tasering his stepson for for fun, and illegal hunting. The state police director even noted that had he been a civilian, he would have been prosecuted. So because he is a cop, being punished by cops he she gave him a 10 day suspension. And when his union whined, she cut it to five. Ergo, the Alaskan state trooper organization deserves no respect from anyone.

      By virtue of being in law enforcement neither you, James, nor any other cop has any right to do what you do. You have powers and responsibilities, and if you abuse them, you should be jumped on with both feet. If you have trouble treating citizens with respect while maintaining control, then you need to find another line of work.

    8. tomw Says:

      If you watch Cop TV, you will see very often a late-arriving officer rush up to a suspect lying face down on the concrete, and put his knee on the suspects back or neck. A faceless officer using his office to abuse a lawbreaker. This treatment of a civilian is just another example of the power that law enforcement has over the citizenry.
      They tell you to stop your car in a loading/unloading zone at Hartsfield, and then give you a ticket for stopping.
      I avoid dealings with enforcement as much as possible. They THINK they can give you orders 24X7X365 at their whim. And, generally they can…
      tom