Actually, it’s not an essay, it’s an excerpt from journalist Radley Balko’s book Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces. Anyway, it’s a compelling read that covers massive, widespread overuse of force by U.S. police against casual small-time gamblers, underage drinkers, protesters, chihuahuas and other dangerous dogs, college students and people who had the misfortune of living at residences SWAT teams mistakenly think house child pornography watchers. Includes a guest appearance by Shaquille O’Neal. Here’s a short excerpt.
The fact that the Postal Service offers such training and most police departments don’t lends some credence to the theory that dog shootings are part of the larger problem of a battlefield mentality that lets police use lethal force in response to the slightest threat—usually with few consequences. “It’s an evolving phenomenon,” says Norm Stamper, the former Seattle police chief. “It started when drug dealers began to recruit pit bulls to guard their supply. These dogs weren’t meant to attack cops. They were meant to attack other drug dealers who came to rob them. But of course they did attack cops. And yes, that’s awfully scary if one of those things latches on to your leg.”
But Stamper says that like many aspects of modern policing, dog shootings may have had a legitimate origin, but the practice has since become a symptom of the mind-set behind a militarized police culture. “Among other things, it really shows a lack of imagination. These guys think that the only solution to a dog that’s yapping or charging is shooting and killing it. That’s all they know. It goes with this notion that police officers have to control every situation, to control all the variables. That’s an awesome responsibility, and if you take it on, you’re caving to delusion. You no longer exercise discrimination or discretion. You have to control, and the way you control is with authority, power, and force. With a dog, the easiest way to take control is to simply kill it. I mean, especially if there are no consequences for doing so.”