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Why Are Detroit Police Shooting So Many Dogs? New at Reason

A group of Detroit Police officers executing a narcotics search warrant knocked on Nikita Smith's door on January 14, 2016. The only fact that both Smith and the officers agree on after that point is that, a short while later, Smith's three dogs were all shot dead.

What really happened in the moments between could be a costly question for the city of Detroit. In a federal civil rights lawsuit filed in May, Smith says the Detroit Police executed her three pit bulls, Debo, Mama, and Smoke, without provocation. Essentially, they acted as a "dog death squad."

According the lawsuit, Smith tried to tell the officers she was putting her dogs away, and placed two in the basement and one in the bathroom. As the officers burst into the house, Debo slipped back upstairs. The officers shot it as it sat down by Jones. Next, they charged into the basement and shot Mama, who was pregnant and backed into a corner. Finally, they moved onto the bathroom, where Smoke was closed in.

One of the officers cracked the door open, peeked inside, and closed it again. "Should we do that one, too?" the officer asked, according to the lawsuit, before two of them fired through the closed door, killing Smoke.

In the police version of the story, told through reports filed after the raid, the officers received no response when they announced their presence and forced entry into the house. Inside, they encountered a "vicious grey pit bull" that charged at them. It was shot eight times. In the basement, they encountered another "vicious white pit bull" that charged toward them. It was shot five times. According to police reports, the third dog charged out of the bathroom toward the officers and was shot.

However, extremely graphic photos entered into evidence in the case show bullet holes riddling the outside of the door and the dog dead inside the bathroom.

"They produce two photos of the dead dog in the bathroom," Chris Olson, Jones' attorney, says. "It looks like The Shining. The dog is in the back of the bathroom and just covered in blood. But their story is that the dog opened the door itself and was coming to eat them. The problem is the door handle wasn't a latch. It was a knob. That's how fucked up it is. That's their story in federal court."

After shooting her dogs, the police arrested Smith for possession of marijuana and seized her car under civil forfeiture laws. The charges were later dropped, however, when the officers failed to appear at her court date.

Stories like Smith's happen all the time. They're so common that they've become known by the grim moniker puppycide. There's a whole category on Reason's website for such events, a 16,000-person-strong Facebook group that tracks local media reports of them, and even a database that attempts to collect information on dog shootings nationwide. But no one knows how many dogs are in fact killed by police every year.

A Justice Department official speculated in a 2012 interview with Police magazine that the number could be as high as 10,000 a year, calling it "an epidemic." That figure that is often repeated in media reports about dog shootings, but it's little more than a guess. A 2012 study by the National Canine Research Council estimated that half of all intentional police shootings involved dogs. There are no reporting requirements, unlike for other use-of-force incidents. Considering the U.S. doesn't even accurately track how many humans are killed at the hands of cops every year, it's no surprise the picture is so murky when it comes to dogs.

To shed light on the phenomenon in one U.S. city that's been hit with a series of lawsuits over dog shootings, Reason obtained the "destruction of animal" reports filed by Detroit Police Department (DPD) officers in 2015 and the first eight months of 2016. The reports provide a broader context for the individual shootings that have drawn local and national media attention. Unfortunately, they also illustrate the difficulty of getting public information from a major police department on how its officers use deadly force.

View this article.

This post first appeared on FREEDOM BUNKER: The Best Libertarian News And Chat, please read the originial post: here

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Why Are Detroit Police Shooting So Many Dogs? New at Reason


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