June 24, 2014

 

I would like to take a moment to address the June 9th shooting incident involving one of my officers and an unrestrained Pit Bull.  The social media would have the public believe, unfairly, that the officer just happened into the yard, within an electronic fence, and shot the dog as it played next to the homeowner’s children.  The story by the writers account would have you believe there was no justification or reason for the shooting.


I would like to first point out some stark differences between social media and a police officers documented account of an incident.


Social media has no rules or boundaries, any ethical code of conduct.  You simply get on line without restriction and express your view regardless of what the truth might be in a consequence free environment.  The writer is allowed to give an inaccurate or incomplete account with impunity and often garners support from under informed readers, who are often biased themselves, and more interested in feeding on the offered negativity; wanting only to lash out and be heard, with no interest in the facts or the truth, as that would not serve their personal purpose.
When a police officer makes out a report detailing an incident he/she was involved in they sign their name to it and take personal ownership for the content.  Officers operate under strict paramilitary guidelines.  They must adhere to the rules and regulations set forth by their respective departments and comply with an oath of ethical conduct.  If an officer is dishonest on a report, there are serious consequences.  The minimal consequence would be termination and in some cases the possibility of criminal prosecution. 


The Hammond Police Department is an ethical department.  We police our own more strictly than any public trial.  If one of my officers intentionally acts against the rules and regulations or commits an ethical violation, the situation would be handled promptly without being influenced by social pressure.  I assure you that if the outcome is different than social media would like, it will be because the officer(s) conducted themselves properly and I will be standing with them, supporting them.  The Hammond Police Department will not bow to social media, or any media that is unwilling to explore the truth before making judgment. 


On June 9th the HPD responded to a documented 911 call that a pit bull from a specific residence was loose outside of its yard.  The caller was concerned for the safety of people and children in the area.  An officer arrived at the residence.  The officer saw a sign and two flags in the front yard designating and electric fence had been installed to contain their dog.  It announced a boundary that the dog could not pass.  Note:  an electric fence is against city ordinance in the city of Hammond.  They can fail. 


The officer heard music from the back of the house so he walked partially down the drive but not into the back yard.  He gained the attention of an adult and waived him forward as he did not want to encounter the dog if it was free in the back yard.


The dog responded to the officer’s efforts to gain the attention of the adult and began running forward toward the officer.  The officer retreated (ran) passed the markings of the electric fence hoping the dog would stop at that point.  The dog continued well past and was gaining on the officer.  Near the parkway, the dog came upon the officer, the officer was in fear for his personal safety, and had outrun the electric fence, before deciding that he had to use force against the aggressive dog, as not to suffer personal injury.  There were no children in close proximity at the time of the shooting. The dog retreated after one shot was fired. Animal control was called to the scene.  The owners were found to be in violation of several city ordinances, including no license, failure to restrain their dog and failure to maintain an actual fence.


The scene of the shooting was processed immediately by a Hammond Police Department evidence technician.  Photos were taken of marked evidence including the recovered bullet and casing, recovered from the parkway, which documents the location of the shooting.  This collection process was conducted properly and in public view.  Investigation into the owners of the dog revealed evidence we possess, that shows the dog being trained to bite using training aids consistent to building skills and drive to bite.


The officer’s report is corroborated by the forensic evidence collected at the scene.  Social media is conspicuously void of the facts surrounding this incident and fails to inform the readers and provide pictures of the dog being trained.


It has been suggested that the officer could have tried to use a Taser or Mace to subdue the animal.  The officer made a split second decision under duress to stop a threat of serious injury to his person.  Both the Taser and mace are more likely to fail, especially against a small fast moving target like a dog. 

 

Chief John D. Doughty
Hammond Police Department