End the War on Baby Deer
A fawn not unlike the one killed by authorities in Wisconsin because it was in an animal shelter instead of a wildlife reserve. Photo via Flickr user Martin Unrue
Two weeks ago, a 13-person armed raid consisting of nine Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource (DNR) agents and four sheriff’s deputies served a search warrant on an animal shelter in order to seize and exterminate a contraband baby deer named Giggles. The abandoned fawn had been brought by a concerned family to the St. Francis Society shelter in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and stayed for about two weeks (the plan was to take Giggles to a wildlife reserve, a move that would have happened the day after the raid). But housing wildlife is illegal in Wisconsin due to concerns over diseases, and soon enough two anonymous busybodies called in a tip about the deer. The authorities reacted to the threat by immediately mobilizing (they even used aerial photos to track and confirm the existence of Giggles) and came to the shelter looking “like a SWAT team,” according to a shelter employee.
The law itself may seem cruel to Bambi fans, or coldly sensible to those worried about people keeping potentially disease-carrying wild animals as pets, but the issue isn’t the law so much as the bizarre method of enforcement—instead of taking Giggles to a reserve, the DNR sedated her, put her in a “body bag” and took her elsewhere to be killed.
Local news station WISN interviewed Jennifer Niemeyer, a supervisor for the DNR, who dismissed the idea that the cops should have talked to the shelter before they used force, comparing it to warning drug dealers before a raid. “They don't call [drug offenders] and ask them to voluntarily surrender their marijuana or whatever drug that they have before they show up,” she said. No, they don’t. But they might start considering it.
Though SWAT-like tactics are most often used in narcotics cases, aggressive police raids (which don’t always involve SWAT teams) are now used more and more frequently for nonviolent lawbreaking. Examples range from FDA feeling the need to go guns-out while fighting the scourge of raw milk, to SWAT teams ostensibly checking liquor licenses at bars and strip clubs before searching employees and patrons for drugs, to a raid targeting Gibson Guitars after the company bought wood that wasn’t finished properly before being exported from India, to IRS agents training with assault rifles. Law enforcement agencies of all stripes can’t seem to get their heads around the notion that while their jobs might sometimes involve using guns and battering rams just like TV cops, they don’t always need to use force. For instance, they could try knocking politely on a door or making a phone call before they raid an animal shelter and kill a baby deer.
Now on to the rest of this week’s bad cops:
- A Santa Ana, California, police officer fatally shot a combative 22-year-old homeless man on Tuesday afternoon after he refused the officer’s commands to get down on the ground. Hans Kevin Arellano, who had been convicted of one robbery and wanted in connection with another, was allegedly causing some kind of disturbance at a shopping center. When the unnamed officer—who had arrived as backup—demanded he lie on the ground, Hans responded with, “What are you going to do about it, bitch?” according to a witness who filmed the exchange. The female officer then shot him once in the chest, even though she was carrying a Taser she could have used instead. The incident is being investigated.
- Speaking of Tasers and stun guns, it’s mostly good news that two dozen Bergen County, New Jersey, police officers are now authorized to carry stun guns (purchased, naturally, with drug forfeiture money). The weapons are even equipped with cameras that police can’t turn off, ensuring that uses of force are recorded and maximizing accountability. On the other hand, Tasers can kill, and cops in other places have been a little too eager to use them, leading to abuse in some cases.
- A legally blind man filed a lawsuit last week against local police chief Andy Rodriguez and another officer in Shoshoni, Wyoming. L.J. Faith’s lawyer claims his constitutional rights were violated, and Faith says that after they came to investigate complaints over his pet cats, cops tasered and arrested him because he “used strong language” and told them to get lost. The kicker? “Chief Rodriguez also accidentally Tasered himself and his partner during the incident.”
- On Tuesday, the DEA settled with 25-year-old Daniel Chong for $4.1 million more than a year after an April 2012 case where Daniel was placed in a holding cell and completely forgotten about for five days. Daniel, who was never charged with a crime and was supposed to be released after being picked up during a raid at his friend’s house, drank his own urine, hallucinated, and thought he would die during his horrific ordeal.
- Juan Taverna, a sheriff’s deputy in Orange County, California, is accused of making five people sick in September, 2012, after he pulled over a 19-year-old for a traffic violation. Juan let the kid go, but not before Taverna put pepper spray on a pizza sitting in the backseat of his car, which pretty much ruined the pizza party the kid was going to after the spray got them sick. Taverna faces up a year in jail over this bizarre incident, and is being arraigned in court today.
- Two different instances of Texas state troopers intrusively searching women’s body cavities after they were pulled over for minor crimes including speeding and littering were shocking enough, but now civil liberties advocates and others are worrying that they are not unique, and are in fact standard policy (written or unwritten). A long piece in the New York Daily News mentions other women coming forward to report they were treated similarly after seeing the disturbing dashcam videos.
- An Indianapolis policeman named "Community Police Support Officer of the Year" in May might not be such a great guy. Local news station WISH obtained video last week showing officer T. Michael Wilson attacking and arresting a man and his employee who had asked management at the hotel where they were staying to call police to report a robbery in the employee’s room. More off-putting than the incident itself (which happened in September) is the difference between what the footage shows and what Wilson put into his police report from that night, which falsely claims that the arrestees were acting violent. In reality, Wilson threw 60-year-old Brian Hudkins to the ground with little provocation and arrested him and his employee, who claims he tried to film the confrontation and was then threatened with a Taser. The video also shows Wilson throwing Hudkins down in the parking lot after he was handcuffed. Hudkins is now suing the police department for $700,000.
- A cop watcher in Illinois is unsure if he’ll be charged and face up to 15 years in prison under the state’s draconian anti-wiretapping law—one of the strictest in the country, though it’s only occasionally enforced—for recording a police officer without permission. The law was ruled unconstitutional by a state circuit court, but it’s still on the books in Morgan County, where Randy Newingham filmed a cop without consent on Wednesday.
- Police in Starkville, Mississippi, are spending time and resources investigating whoever was behind two parody Twitter accounts pretending to be Starkville aldermen. (The crime allegedly committed here is “illegal impersonation.”) Wait until these cops find out about @__MICHAELJ0RDAN.
- Our Good Cops of the Week are the ones pointed out by journalist Radley Balko in his piece on cops who object to the militarization of their profession. Most of the cops mentioned are retired, and Balko suggests that it might be the older cops who are indeed more skittish about what has happened to law enforcement. One anonymous former officer wrote in an email that some young cops are “acting out, at least to some degree, video game fantasies about being a badass,” and added, “American policing really needs to return to a more traditional role of cops keeping the peace; getting out of police cars, talking to people, and not being prone to overreaction with the use of firearms, Tasers, or pepper spray.” Amen.
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