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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Stop Coddling Bad Guys Who Kill Police Dogs

Taken from American Police Beat Magazine, November 2012 Volume XIX
Written by Lt. Lance M. Burris, retired Police Chief of Detectives and currently employed as a Master Instructor with the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy.  He is a published author and a frequent contributor to the American Police Beat Magazine.

Police officers are subjected to stressful and dangerous duties every shift they work.  Likewise, police dogs are vulnerable to the same stress and danger as their handler.

These well-trained dogs are not only police officers, but become a true member of the handler's family as well.  When we lose one of these animals in the line of duty, it is a devastating loss.

So what happens when a law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty and the suspect is apprehended?

That officer is charged with a homicide in the death of the officer.

What if a certified law enforcement K-9 is injured or killed in the line of duty?

In this state, the Indiana law indicates that for an assailant to be charged with murder, the death must be that of a human being.

The statute reads, "a person who knowingly or intentionally kills another human being."  So what about the K-9?  Is the police dog not a living creature?  This is a question that must be answered by state legislatures across the country.

In July 2012, a report by the "Indiana Criminal Code Evaluation Commission Review of Criminal Code" was submitted after evaluating the criminal laws of Indiana.  One of the laws reviewed was Indiana Code (IC) 35-46-11 "Law Enforcement Animal; Mistreatment or Interference."

The committee reported the offense should remain a Class A misdemeanor and enhanced to a felony if the violation resulted in serious permanent disfigurement, unconsciousness, loss of use of limb/organ, or death of the animal so that if a person knowingly or intentionally causes the aforementioned they are charged with a Class D felony.

A Class D felony can be changed by the court to a Class A misdemeanor (a lesser charge) under certain circumstances.

Recently, two of our police dogs working with the Anderson P.D. were murdered by individuals during the commission of a crime.

Sgt. Craig Patton, a long-time K-9 trainer with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said that while rare, police dogs do get killed in the line of duty.  "It happens," Patton said, "but it doesn't happen often."

Magnum was shot while searching for a suspected bank robber after his handler set him free to search a wooded area.  Magnum was shot in the nose by the suspect and the bullet travelled down into his lungs.  Magnum did not recover from emergency surgery where vets tried in vain to save his life.  The suspect was apprehended and charged with killing Magnum, a class D felony.

An officer in Fortville, Indiana was shot and wounded in an ambush style attack by a subject who was stopped for a traffic violation.  The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department along with the Lawrence P.D. assisted.  A Lawrence Police Department K-9 was shot while he was waiting inside the police car by the suspect.  The suspect, who exchanged fire with the officers, was killed during the exchange.

Another Anderson Police Department canine, Kilo, was also killed in a shootout with an armed individual who shot and wounded the dog and his handler.  With the handler down, the wounded dog sought to protect his partner and attacked another police officer who responded to the scene.

Tragically, another officer had to shoot Kilo to protect the downed colleague.  Can anyone even envision the officer's frame of mind when he had to shoot the police dog?

The stress this officer and Kilo's handler are now experiencing must be overwhelming.  The perpetrator escaped justice when he shot and killed himself.

Perhaps it's time for legislators in every state to revisit the current laws on the books as they pertain to police dogs.

K-9's are part of the law enforcement community.  They don't carry guns for protection, but they do protect their handlers and other members of the department.  They are loyal, faithful and dedicated employees who risk it all by rooting out, chasing and apprehending those who commit criminal acts.

When they are murdered, it should be looked upon as a serious felony and dealt with as such.  These are not just other dogs.  They are police dogs.

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