Watch-Out Fido – Dogs That Move in Danger of Being Shot by Police

A warning for those Utah residents with four legged furry family members, any dogs that move may be in danger of being shot by police.

Geist the dog

Photo by: Jim Bradbury

Photo by: Jim Bradbury

On June 18, 2014 Salt Lake City police officers were searching a Sugar House neighborhood looking for a 3 year old boy who had been reported missing. One officer entered into a latched, fenced yard and encountered a dog instead. The 2 year old Weimaraner dog became startled at the intruder in uniform and ran toward the officer, barking. The officer aimed his weapon and shot the young dog, killing it. The missing child was later found safe and sound at home.

Dogs shot by police

The heartbreaking story of Geist the dog is just one of numerous cases of people’s pets being shot by police even though they were safely secured in their home or yard. One of the most common scenarios in which dogs are shot by police is when officers are executing a search warrant and enter a home without being invited by the residents. Most pets would bark, growl, or even run after someone coming into a house uninvited-especially if they sense their owner’s tensions running high from an unwelcome search warrant.

Photo by: Chris Yarzab

Photo by: Chris Yarzab

Dogs that act like dogs

Regarding the shooting of Geist the dog, a federal judge ruled that the police officer who shot Geist acted appropriately for the circumstances. This same ruling is found often in cases where dogs are shot by police. In December a Michigan couple whose two dogs were shot and killed while retreating to the basement from police was shocked at the federal court ruling. A judge told them if a dog moves or barks, a police officer is allowed to shoot to kill. Any dog who doesn’t bark or move a muscle will not be shot by police; in other words, any dog that doesn’t act like a dog is safe from harm.

Is It Necessary to Hide the Identity of Utah Police Officers Who Use Deadly Force?

A Utah lawmaker has sponsored a bill to temporarily hide the identity of police officers who use deadly force; something that may not only be unnecessary, but could essentially increase public tensions with law enforcement.

Protection from harm or public opinion?

Police Officers Who Use Deadly Force

Photo by: Tony Webster

After several high-profile stories of police brutality hit the media main stream, police officers who use deadly force began to be viewed with skepticism and a rising distrust from the general public. Rep. Mike McKell (R-Utah), who perceives this diminishing public opinion of law enforcement as a threat for the safety of Utah police officers, has issued a bill to keep the names of police involved in officer-related shootings away from the public for up to four months. This fear for the safety of law enforcement personnel of McKell’s is said to stem from recent ambush style assaults on police officers across the country as well as alleged retaliation attacks following national incidents of police brutality and their unjustified use of force.

H.B. 306- Hiding identity of police officers who use deadly force

The bill which was introduced to the house in early February 2017 has been amended to read: “At the discretion of the agency, the officer’s name may not be released to the public by any public official or public employee conducting or participating in an official investigation of an officer-involved critical incident, or any person acting on behalf of a public official or public employee, until the official investigation is concluded.( . . . ) the name of an officer involved in an officer involved critical incident shall be released not later than four months after the incident.” Although common citizens are quick to post, tweet, or otherwise share their distaste and unfriendly views towards police officers who use deadly force, the numbers of officers killed in the line of duty may not support the need to withhold information from the public for the officer’s protection.

Line of duty deaths

Photo by: Rick Portier

Photo by: Rick Portier

According to National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, there were 135 line of duty deaths in 2016. Along with shootings, stabbings, and assault on officers, that number also includes police officers who died due other causes including vehicle accidents and health-related issues such as heart attacks. While 2016 showed a small uptick in officer fatalities since a much larger spike in 2011, the overall number of officers killed in the line of duty has been steadily decreasing since 1974 when officer fatalities hit a 40 year high of 280 deaths. Although the media’s attention regarding attacks on officer has risen, the number of officers actually killed in 2016 was lower than the average deaths of law enforcement in the entire decade prior to last year.

Trust issues

Anyone who reads the newspaper or scans the jail bookings website can view the information of those arrested by the police even before the defendant is officially convicted. It seems only fair that information related to all possible criminal mistakes, including by those in uniform, should also become public knowledge. Law enforcement officials may not enjoy hearing the verbal backlash over decisions they made that could be considered questionable, but many citizens believe they deserve the right to know who was behind the badge that pulled the trigger. Having that information hidden adds a level of doubt and clandestineness that should not be prevalent among those who work in positions of public service. Hiding the identity of police officers who use deadly force could be seen as a sign of guilt and has the potential to further the wariness and increase tension between law enforcement and the people. If law enforcement wants to decrease the strain between police and citizens, transparency is what is needed, not secrecy.

Interfering with an Arrest in Utah When No Crime Has Been Committed

If a Utah police officer attempts to detain a suspect but a bystander is certain no crime has been committed, it is still recommended to allow officers to proceed to avoid facing possible charges for interfering with an arrest.

Do as you’re told

Photo by: Keith Allison

Photo by: Keith Allison

Law enforcement has been under increased scrutiny lately for many hot button issues such as police brutality and violation of constitutional rights. This has caused a widespread public disregard toward those once respected in uniform. This insolence toward law enforcement may give Utah residents the false notion that they can stand their ground if they feel someone is being arrested without cause. Unfortunately by interfering with an arrest, that person meddling may end up facing charges for their intrusion even if the charges for which they were interfering are dropped or deemed unlawful.

Interfering with an arrest

If an individual refuses to comply with law enforcement or attempts to stop a police officer from making an arrest, they can be charged with resisting arrest, otherwise known by Utah law as interference with arresting officer. Utah Code 76-8-305 states “a person is guilty of a class B misdemeanor if he has knowledge, or by the exercise of reasonable care should have knowledge, that a peace officer is seeking to effect a lawful arrest or detention of that person or another and interferes with the arrest or detention
(1) use of force or any weapon;
(2) the arrested person’s refusal to perform any act required by lawful order:
(a) necessary to effect the arrest or detention; and
(b) made by a peace officer involved in the arrest or detention; or

(3) the arrested person’s or another person’s refusal to refrain from performing any act that would impede the arrest or detention.”

Lawful is irrelevant

Interfering with an arrest

Photo by: Stever Baker

Although the above section states that no one should interfere with a lawful arrest, the world lawful is irrelevant as courts often look at statute’s plain language. For this reason, whether or not an arrest is lawful shouldn’t cause a person to decide that they have the right to get in the middle of police business. According to the State [of Washington] v. Holeman, “The determination of whether an arrest is lawful is often difficult and should not be left to bystanders who may have only a limited knowledge of the relevant law and who may let their emotions control their judgment.”

Acting within the scope of their authority

When it comes to making an arrest, officers are expected only to think they are making a lawful arrest. In the case of American Fork v. Pena-Flores, Nov 16 2000, it states: “Although police must have reasonable suspicion in order to make a legal detention, the use of “lawful” in section 76-8-305 does not automatically incorporate this standard in determining whether a person is guilty of interfering with a peace officer. So long as a police officer is acting within the scope of his or her authority and the detention or arrest has the indicia of being lawful, a person can be guilty of interfering with a peace officer even when the arrest or detention is later determined to be unlawful.”

Know the law

Regardless of what Utah residents feel toward law enforcement, they are not entitled to stop an officer from doing their job. Interfering with an arrest, whether or not it turns out to be lawful, will usually end badly for those trying to rid the world of injustice, one arrest at a time. If someone feels a person was detained unlawfully without reasonable suspicion or if they witnessed extreme use of force by police or a complete disregard for the detainee’s constitutional rights, it is best to file a complaint with the arresting officer’s supervisor. For those who overstepped their place and are facing charges for interfering with an arrest, contact a criminal defense attorney.