June 23, 2010

The police definition of "pit bull" often seems to be "any dog we shot."

And don't forget [as if we could] the Merritt Clifton corollary: "A 'pit bull' is any dog the newspaper says is a pit bull."

Title of this post was swiped from the most excellent and essential Radley Balko, whose latest commentary on the epidemic of cops shooting dogs can be found here. Excerpt:
Last July I wrote a piece for The Daily Beast on the continuing cops-shooting-dogs problem. While it's difficult to say just how often this happens (police departments tend to be less than forthcoming with the data), it's often enough to produce a regular stream of news stories. What I did discover while reporting that piece is that very few police departments provide training for their officers on how to deal with dogs, something I found astonishing given how often your typical cop is likely to come into contact with one. By contrast, a U.S. Postal Service spokesman told me all of their employees get annual training on interaction with dogs. Probably not coincidentally, he also said serious dog attacks on postal workers are vanishingly rare. The other problem is that there's rarely any accountability for these shootings. If a police officer says he felt threatened by the dog, that's usually enough to justify the shoot, even if the dog was a miniature Dachshund, or a Jack Russell Terrier.

Read the whole thing, and be sure to follow Radley's link to a terrific post at Popehat, where Patrick notes that "[i]n police reports, it appears that there are only two breeds of dogs, pit bulls and rottweilers":
I’ll bet that in some bureaucratic Newspeak seminar for police department internal affairs or public relations personnel, officers are taught, always, to characterize dogs shot by the police as “pit bulls,” “rottweilers,” or if they can’t jam it into one of those categories, “German shepherds.”

It's a good thing to see police thuggery and media fear-mongering addressed by respected, dare I say mainstream, journalists and bloggers. And huge props to the commenter at Popehat who says what every pit bull owner knows:
People associate [pit bulls] with black and latino people. The racist undertones of the ban in Denver (where I have lived) are not really undertones at all, but pretty openly racially motivated by the advocates of the ban when they discuss it.

Another essential Balko post: More Militarized Than the Military. Gotta love that War on [some] Drugs.


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