There’s a story getting a lot of attention which I find shocking. Police in Hawthorne, California, while arresting a man shot and killed his dog in the street. You can read the story here and here (The second link contains a video of the incident which could be disturbing for some people). In a nutshell, Leon Rosby was watching the police with the music on his car playing loudly. He refused to turn it down, did not resist arrest but then his dog jumped out the car window to protect him. Supposedly to defend themselves, the police shot and killed it.
Obviously there are a couple of aspects to the story. If a policeman’s life is threatened he should be able to defend himself and that may require deadly force. Rosby should have turned down his radio when instructed. The question then is whether the actions taken were reasonable under the circumstances. I think they were not and constitute excessive use of force.
I’ll admit I don’t know that much about police procedures but I will say there are a number of things about the story that confused me. I can see how the noise would distract or interfere with their work. They probably are also fully able to command silence. What I find odd is that if the noise was such a problem is why no one went up to Rosby before the arrest. If it’s a serious problem then you don’t waste all your time at a distance, you can go up and speak to him directly. Even if that fails, I’m not sure whether arresting him is the ideal choice. Wouldn’t a fine be more appropriate than arresting someone for playing loud music?
Of course, if he was warned and continued “interfering” and needed to be arrested to prevent that interference then that would be another matter. The problem then is that he was only arrested after the suspect had been apprehended! That says two things to me. Firstly, that the interference was not sufficient to warrant anyone actually dealing with it at the time and, secondly, that the situation was over when he was arrested, meaning the arrest was not preventing any further distraction. It seems to me that there was no real justification for an arrest. Considering he didn’t even spend 12 hours in jail, one must really wonder whether he should have been there in the first place.
Whether he should have been arrested or not he was. The question then becomes, should the dog have been shot? Were the policemen in danger and was shooting the dog the best course of action? The police had this to say:
“It looks like the officer tried to reach down and grab the leash, and then the dog lunges in the direction of him and the other officers there,” Hawthorne police Lt. Scott Swain said. “And I know it’s the dog’s master, and more than likely not going to attack him, (but) we’ve got a guy handcuffed that’s kind of defenseless. We have a duty to defend him, too.”
I don’t for a minute buy that they shot the dog to protect him. The dog showed no signs of aggression before and to think it would harm him is completely illogical. They could perhaps claim that it was to defend themselves as it isn’t a small dog. In a later article detailing the outrage this incident has generated we get the police’s response to that:
“It was an hour and 45 minute standoff with an armed suspect inside of a location. It was a tense scene. Again, put yourselves in the position of the officers making the arrest, in the position of the officer that was backing them up and that big 100 pound Rottweiler that was charging.”
Hawthorne police Lt. Gary Tomatani said it would have been difficult in that quick of a moment for an officer to holster a gun and draw a Taser gun or run to get a shotgun that fires bean bags.
Fair enough, it’s a tense situation. They should be trained to deal with that, it is, after all, their job, but they are human. The problem comes in the second part. It would be too difficult to holster a gun and draw a non-lethal weapon. Taking their previous statement into account it’s obvious they weren’t going to consider a simple action like letting him go, whether cuffed or not, which would no doubt have satisfied the dog. But then the question is, why did the police go to arrest a non-violent, compliant person with a gun drawn? There was no call for a weapon at that point, especially when they had non-lethal options available. Were they planning to subdue him with a lethal weapon as well if he resisted?
There were a number of bad decisions from all the parties involved but I do wonder whether the police were sufficiently trained to handle the situation. It seems as though they were going to arrest Rosby out of spite as it served no real purpose at that point and that they approached an unarmed, non-violent citizen as though intending to use excessive force, otherwise they wouldn’t have had guns drawn to holster in the first place. I’m glad there will be an investigation into this incident as it seems the decisions taken by every person involved were amongst the worst possible ones and it is terrible that it had to end so tragically.