Webinar presenter Claudine Wilkins answered a number of your questions after her presentation, Liability Issues for Law Enforcement. Here are just a few of her responses.
Audience Question: She references that LA use of force handout that we included. It says lethal force may not be used against the dog to protect property. Can you talk about how officers should interpret the word may when it is included in policy? Does it imply that it cannot be done or is it debatable?
Claudine Wilkins: Well I’m not in LA or California. I don’t know California law. I cannot honestly answer that. To be quite frank, I can’t answer that. In Georgia, an imminent threat is an imminent threat to yourself and not to the property. When the dog is about to crush a rose or a bush, you can’t shoot it. If the dog is about to break your yard ornament or whatever’s happening – it reminds me of the spring loader gun case that we all learned as law students which is some guy was just pissed off that people were trespassing at his yard so he figured out a way to load a gun with the trigger so if somebody passed it, it would actually shoot a bullet. That is not allowed. I don’t know the answer. This is a California question, and I’m sorry I just can’t answer that because every state is different.
Audience Question: Are there best practices that you can share about how officers both sworn and animal control officers can share safety warnings about a premise while minimizing liability for that officer safety warning?
Claudine Wilkins: I think so. It all boils down to communication and technology and dispatch. Dispatch plays a huge role from every aspect of animal cases. I have a course that we do From Call to Conviction. Dispatchers often send, I shouldn’t say often but can send an officer to a wrong address which has happened here in Decatur(?) County. What is accessible to dispatchers is unknown to me because every state is slightly different but the technology is there and you are able to communicate with your police about what you know. If you are animal control and you know that out of this jurisdiction, we have 20 homes that have a dangerous dog or a tethered dog instead of a fenced yard or five large breeds on one property. These are information I would want to know. I would want to know that if I was an officer being dispatched. One of the things that we always tell everybody leaving our courses is you have homework. Your homework is to go have coffee or go meet your fellow professionals. If you are animal control officers go meet the chief of police and all of the officers that might be on duty, on your shift you know. If you are Monday through Thursday, go find out the officers that are working Monday through Thursday and get to know them. If there is a technical way to insert this information electronically in their system, whatever the system they use, that’s great. Then it’s at the hands of dispatch. It’s in the hands of other officers that might be coming for back-up. Say officer Smith you are on your way to 145 Main St. You should know that there are 5 German Shepherds there that are all tethered. So far we don’t know if they are dangerous but we just want you to know that. You could say you are going to this location there is a known dangerous dog that has been classified, know that. The answer is yeah if all the technology and communications are there. Sometimes it’s just picking up the telephone and making that happen.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Liability Issues for Law Enforcement.