Monday, August 18, 2008

"It's a dog, it's OK. You can get another one"

Sometimes a few casual words accidentally reveal remarkably callous attitudes in the justice system that participants would never admit to in public.

The classic example may be Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Sharon Keller refusing a last-minute appeal by a condemned appellant with the spurious bureaucratic excuse, "We close at 5." (Even Keller's fellow CCA members criticized her unilateral action in the press).

The national media has latched onto another Texas case where the casual utterances of a law enforcement officer revealed a remarkable lack of empathy for those he's policing. After pulling over a driver speeding to the emergency vet with his dying dog, a San Marcos officer detained the vehicle for 15 minutes on the side of the road, allowing the animal to expire.

The money quote from the officer: "It's a dog, it's OK. You can get another one. Relax." Replied the driver, "It's not just a dog; it's my family." Reported ABC News:
Though Stephens' supervisors found him not guilty of misconduct, they did agree he handled the situation poorly.

"His world was collapsing. And what the officer says to him, basically, is, 'I don't care,'" said San Marcos police department chief Howard Williams.
While I don't think the officer should be terminated over the incident - after all, the driver was allegedly going 100 mph when pulled over - neither do I think he demonstrated much empathy or ability to exercise discretion in an emergency situation.

The dog lover in me would like to see the officer submitted to this authority for retribution, but realistically a better outcome would be retraining or even re-assignment to animal control for a few months. By correctly identifying the officer's error - i.e, reacting to the driver's personal crisis with the message, "I don't care" - then in the same breath declaring the officer did not commit "misconduct," the Chief's statements imply that his department tolerates such attitudes or at least refuses to formally discourage them, which is an unfortunate message to deliver to the public via the national press.

BLOGVERSATION: For a sense of the public reaction, see related posts and comments from Urban Grounds, PetitUSA Blog, the Raw Story, the Dallas News MetroBlog, and Ravings of a Semi-Insane Madwoman. Also, when I last checked there were 1,207 comments reacting to the story on ABC News' website.

UPDATE: TalkLeft adds this pearl of wisdom, though I'm not sure I'd endorse the advice:
Moral of the story: if your dog (or other family member) needs immediate medical attention, don't stop for the police. No jury will convict you of eluding under those circumstances, and your family member is more likely to survive if you don't stop.

37 comments:

rage said...

Sure, he's a jackass. But you shouldn't endanger your life or those of the public by going that fast, because of a dog.

I love dogs, but in the end the officer's right.

TxBluesMan said...

There are other ways to handle this type of case besides disciplinary action. The officer can (and was) talked to by his supervisors, explaining that this is not the type of attitude to portray.

A number of departments will send officers to training after an incident like this, to try and modify behavior in the future.

There was no police misconduct in this case - and disciplinary action based on it would be ludicrous other than the oral reprimand and counseling that the officer was given.

Training on how to deal with the public is more appropriate.

The call by the student for the officer to be fired is insane.

Anonymous said...

I think that, in theory, a short term reassignment to animal control sounds like a good idea but then I would be concerned about someone being in that position that has such a callous outlook on animals.

Anonymous said...

I have to wonder why the pets in this country gets more coverage and sympathy than the people in prison.

People in prison deserve to be treated as well or better than pets! It is disappointing to see the lack of concern in our society for people who were unfortunate enough to get caught up in our justice system and imprisoned.

Like innocent pets, the majority of prisoners are dependent upon others due to being uneducated and poor. Even a tiny bit of compassion would be welcome.

Anonymous said...

I have to wonder why the pets in this country gets more coverage and sympathy than the people in prison.

People in prison deserve to be treated as well or better than pets! It is disappointing to see the lack of concern in our society for people who were unfortunate enough to get caught up in our justice system and imprisoned.

Like innocent pets, the majority of prisoners are dependent upon others due to being uneducated and poor. Even a tiny bit of compassion would be welcome.

ryanpaige said...

When I was a teenager, my father, a physician, got pulled over for speeding while answering an emergency page from the hospital. He attempted to tell the officer that he was responding to an emergency call (and that the officer could escort him to the hospital if he wanted), but the officer wasn't interested in the emergency at the hospital and began the needlessly slow and tedious process of writing a ticket/checking for warrants, etc.

So, my Dad calls the hospital on his cellphone and tells them to do what they can and he'd be there as soon as "this dumbass cop writes me a ticket".

Unfortunately for my Dad, the officer overheard this and decided the comment was an arrestable offense. So he arrested him (and, to add insult to injury, he refused to allow my father to call the hospital again from his cellphone to tell them that he wasn't going to be able to come after all and to try and track down another doctor to save the emergency patient from his impending death).

That officer didn't receive any reprimand for his actions that day, so it doesn't surprise me that an officer wouldn't receive any kind of real reprimand for letting a dog die.

ttrentham said...

"letting a dog die"? Please. If you want to play that game, the owner killed him by driving so fast that he got stopped and got a ticket. Driving the speed limit would've ultimately gotten him there faster.

On top of that, if the dog was so bad off that it wasn't going to survive a delay to get to the vet, it was probably going to die anyway.

The cop was a jerk and could've been a little more understanding.

I saw an interview with the owner on television. The guy clearly has issues as well. As someone else said, I don't want you endangering me by driving 100mph to save your dog, so the cop was correct in stopping him. He wasn't correct in how he handled it.

ryanpaige said...

The "letting the dog die" part didn't come out like I meant it.

Certainly, though, an officer might well could be more understanding and find a solution that offered help rather than what he did (for example, is it impossible for the officer to escort the man to the vet and then write him the ticket once there?)

I doubt it would've made any difference, either, as to whether the dog lived or died, but I guess it's a question of where we draw the line in terms of what is responsible policing. I will say, though, that sometimes a few minutes can make a difference. This is probably why ambulances and the like sometimes break speed limits getting human patients to hospitals.

Or maybe they just do it to look like they're trying.

Anonymous said...

At least they let that murderous dog named Michael Richard die.

We close at 5, sucker!

Anonymous said...

"Hernandez said the incident began when she and Gonzalez returned home after midnight from visiting a friend in San Antonio and fed Missy. When the dog began choking, they tried to dislodge the food, only to have Missy vomit and go limp."

IOW, the dog's airway was blocked. How long do you think a dog can go without air? The dog was dead long before they were pulled over by the police for speeding. However, this story has taken on Rashomon proportions.

You want to criticize the officer for making what might sound like an intemperate remark, fine. But people are now embellishing this story solely because they hate cops.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

12:51 - I understand support for the death penalty the same way I understand the occasional need to put a dangerous dog down. But it would never occur to me to revel in a dog's death as you have here, much less clamor for killing a person like the cheering section at a football game. Perhaps some therapy may be in order? - you appear to have some issues. Such comments even more pitiful than they are cowardly and deluded.

BDwaco said...

As a long time dog lover, I have to say, I think the officer should just be verbally reprimanded and possibly retrained on how to deal with the public. I mean, the guy was going 100 mph.

And after all, it was just a dog.

Anonymous said...

From anon @ 2:01
"But people are now embellishing this story solely because they hate cops."

And why do you think that is? Could it be because of remarks like the officer made in this case?

Don Dickson said...

I've represented Troopers who were disciplined for less. The officer's handling of the situation struck me as being very unnecessarily callous.

Kudos to the second officer on the scene, who, it is reported, tried himself to clear the dog's airway.

In fact, I've recently read that Austin firefighters have been trained in canine resuscitations.

Pets are like family members. And warnings for speed violations can be mailed to the driver in appropriate circumstances.

Anonymous said...

I think we should shove something down the officer's throat and see if he feels the same way about the situation. Don't worry, we can tell his wife, his mom can make another asshole cop...

The more I see idiots on the internet the more I love my dogs. All life is sacred, and not in the stupid "bible-thumping" ideology, Dogs especially are honest, and will never let you down. Humans on the other hand are pathetic, lying, manipulative creatures that one has to wonder how they ever survived evolution.

Anonymous said...

"But it would never occur to me to revel in a dog's death as you have here, much less clamor for killing a person like the cheering section at a football game."

You do understand that this is Texas don't you? The state of a** backwards religious nuts, that feel Jesus would be for the death penalty as well if he ever actually existed.

Anonymous said...

There are some people who should not be policemen. This guy is one of them. He needs to look into a new career. Dogcathcher comes to mind.

Anonymous said...

And why do you think that is? Could it be because of remarks like the officer made in this case?

No. Most likely because they are immature and possibly psychologically unstable.

Anonymous said...

But it would never occur to me to revel in a dog's death as you have here, much less clamor for killing a person like the cheering section at a football game. Perhaps some therapy may be in order? - you appear to have some issues.

He didn't. He was making fun of you. Maybe a reading comprehension course may be in order for you? -- either that or just get over yourself.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

He wasn't making fun of me, 6:47, he didn't mention me. The writer was mocking a dead man.

I get such anonymous drivel in Grits comments whenever a topic remotely, tangentially relates to the death penalty, and I'm becoming increasingly intolerant of the phenomenon in its most puerile forms like that demonstrated at 12:51. It's easy to call for blood when you refuse to be held accountable personally for what you say. Anonymous punks are a dime a dozen and if such folks want to launch their own blogs, they should. But I want Grits to be a place for more serious discussions.

Anonymous said...

Grits Readers,
If that F**kin Idiot had killed your family members you would all be screaming at the top of your lungs, "Where the HELL were the San Marcos police."
That kid should be glad he was stopped before he killed someone else's "FAMILY".
AND where was the supervisor at during this "HIGH PRIORITY" incident? Why isn't he being reprimanded?
Lastly, where was the Department of Public Safety??

dirty harry said...

Actually, the smart thing for the cop to do would be to load the dog and the student in the back seat of his car and drive to the vet. That way, he would have prevented the student from potentially causing an accident, and also did what he could to save the dog. I've seen cops violate traffic laws over a lot less. My father was a retired cop, and he was right about something he said later in life. "Son," he said, "when I was a cop, it was our duty to protect and serve. These days, I don't think cops have a clue as to what they are supposed to be doing."

Cheri Lincoln said...

No doubt, I will probably get blasted for my comment but here it goes...
I am the ultimate dog lover. I have four of these wonderful creatures in my home, each with their own personality and each loved by all my family members. I have had a dog choke on a Greenie and dislodging the thing was horrible. Thankfully, I have worked for a vet and knew what to do. However, had it become necessary to go to the vet I would not presume to think I could drive at 100 MPH on any street or highway. No one had control of a vehicle at that rate of speed and I don't care if it is a human you are transporting in your vehicle. Leave that type of driving to the professional ambulance drivers.
However, the cop was wrong in making such a callous remark to this overwrought guy. Certainly some training in how to approach these issues is in order. Not everyone loves animals but I think everyone can agree that no one should be allowed to drive 100MPH in a state of panic or not in a state of panic, for that matter.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

To 10:57 and Sheri - I don't think anyone has said the officer shouldn't have stopped the fellow. The issue is that he exercised his discretion to ignore the driver's actual emergency when, as dirty harry points out, he could have tried to help instead.

This cop's actions here weren't about safety, at least not after he initially pulled the guy over. After all, the immediate danger had ceased at that point. He could have escorted the guy to the vet or taken the dog himself, but he thought it was no big deal to let the dog die and even said so.

The Monty Blog said...

Moral of the story: if your dog (or other family member) needs immediate medical attention, don't stop for the police. No jury will convict you of eluding under those circumstances, and your family member is more likely to survive if you don't stop.

Well, if the hospital is close by and there's little likelyhood of a roadblock or getting shot, yes, I will not stop for a human's true emergency medical needs. I'll deal with a jury later. When I drive up to the E.R., holding down the horn, not even the worst jack-booted thug would stop physicians from treating my passenger.

But a dog? A dog is not worht driving 95 mph for. I'm not sure E.M.S. will drive 95 for a patient. And if the officer is disregarded and the driver does not stop, chances are the officer will not allow the vet to come near the car while he's making a felony arrest.

This is what can happen when two dumbasses randombly interact.

Anonymous said...

He wasn't making fun of me, 6:47, he didn't mention me. The writer was mocking a dead man.

Reread you initial response to him. You accused him of "reveling in a dog's death". He did not. His comment was intended to mock you over your continual misrepresentation of the Richards execution.

Anonymous said...

Moral of the story: if your dog (or other family member) needs immediate medical attention, don't stop for the police.

The better moral of the story: if your dog is choking and you don't know how to do the canine Heimlich maneuver, do nothing. Otherwise, as in this case, you may force the object partially blocking the airway to totally block the airway. Without oxygen, your dog will die within minutes. A trip to the vet will not save it. Nor will a vehicle stop by the police make it deader. Do not blame others for your own negligence.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Think what you want, 8:56, clearly you believe you can read minds and know everyone else's motives. (Or maybe you're just another coward willing to spout crap behind a veil of anonymity but don't have the cojones to put your name behind your words.)

For the record, what I meant by that comment is I wouldn't revel in a dog's death the way that writer revels in Richards' execution. I can see the ambiguous pronoun use that confused your simple brain, but you're misinterpreting me. Those who cheer on executions of people are who I'm accusing of behaving like the cheering section at a football game, and MANY pro-DP commenters on Grits fit that description including the one that launched this discussion.

Finally, I've not misrepresented anything about the Michael Richards case despite the anonymous attempts at revisionist history. Judge Keller with her "We close at 5" dicta made a decision that simply was not hers to make. There was a duty judge assigned to that case who was never informed of the situation and who said publicly she would have ruled differently. Your disagreement in that regard is with Judge Johnson, not me - lodge it accordingly.

What happened afterward in Baze, etc., is beside the point. At that moment, on that day, usurping Judge Johnson's authority to make the call was an act of judicial misconduct, which is why hundreds of attorneys signed onto a complaint to the Judicial Conduct Commission in response (and why the CCA changed the rules to prevent her from doing it again). Not all of those 300+ complaining lawyers were anti-death penalty by a long shot, but all of them agreed judges shouldn't abuse or ignore restraints on their authority just to make death happen a few months quicker. You disagree, which is your right, but don't pretend those who disagree with you are being disingenuous. You'll get farther making an argument, not a smear.

Anonymous said...

bravo bdwaco! my thoughts exactly. people's lives are more important than a dog's.

Anonymous said...

Smear? You and your ilk are the ones smearing people. It was TDS's responsibility to contact the duty judge directly and arrange for an after hours filing. It was not Keller's job to order the courthouse to remain open. Undoubtedly, you will keep spinning the lie but you fool no one.

Anonymous said...

"Grits Readers,
If that F**kin Idiot had killed your family members you would all be screaming at the top of your lungs, "Where the HELL were the San Marcos police."
That kid should be glad he was stopped before he killed someone else's "FAMILY".
AND where was the supervisor at during this "HIGH PRIORITY" incident? Why isn't he being reprimanded?
Lastly, where was the Department of Public Safety??"

You assume he was going to kill someone, but oddly enough no one was killed. Speeding is a "victimless crime."

If he had killed someone why in the world would you call the police? Will the police bring the dead back to life?

If you haven't figured this out by now I'll explain it to you, police officers don't serve the public they serve the state.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

The problem with your most recent misrepresentation, 6:29, is that the duty judge in question disagreed with you. But please, by all means don't let facts get in the way of your anonymous revisionism.

To 6:38: I've not seen anyone argue the officer shouldn't have pulled the guy over, the question is what should he have done afterward. Some people on this string are arguing against a position no one has taken.

Fred said...

Merely representative of police in general: self righteous, superior and indifferent.

rockeyraj said...

AS he is giving answers more recklessly according to me he should not be in police group

===============================

Jones

for information on Drug Addiction..

New Jersey Drug Addiction

fav.or.it said...

DBwaco, being a long time dog owner does not make you a dog lover.

sent from: fav.or.it

fav.or.it said...

All the what if's across the internet. I would say that 99% of the people on both sides have no problem with the traffic stop. If the comments had not been made this story would not have spread like this. Even if Stephens arrested Gonzales this would not have. Spun up this big even with the dog dying. It boils down to the uncalled for comments. Yell at him, ticket him, arrest him; all warrented but not the comments. Be mad at Stephens for not doing more and get over yourselves. Pass laws to ban emergency vets or get pet ambulances to remove the tempation. This is a college kid. I would like to see how rational some of you were at that age. People screwed up both ways but the real loser in this battle was the dog that did nothing to nobody. Alleged dog lovers, do you have the unconditional love and dedication to them as they do to you. This argument can go on forever. Very few argue the speeding, but most of you will not address the issue that really makes a lot of people mad. You just fall back on the speeding.

sent from: fav.or.it

Anonymous said...

I think 2moons dil changes my life. Because of 2moons gold, I meet a lot of friends. Besides, my friends usually give me some 2moon dil. I usually buy 2moons dil through Internet and advice from my friends, so I gain a lot of cheap 2moons gold and harvest in life.