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Police Assault on People with Disabilities and the Dogs We Love

  • Published: 2015-06-28 : Author: Disabled World : Contact: Disabled World
  • Synopsis: Editorial on recent overzealous police abuse of power regarding dogs and persons with a disability.

Quote: "The hard fact to face? Police officers in America are certainly no friend to People with Disabilities, or our pets or service dogs."

Main Document

Hundreds of People with Disabilities in America die every single year at the hands of police officers with a milquetoast depth of bravery. The Supreme Court of America will hear oral arguments in a case about one of these interactions. In San Francisco V. Sheehan, cops were called to take Teresa Sheehan, a woman experiencing a psychiatric emergency, to the hospital. However - instead of assisting Teresa to receive treatment she needed, the cops shot her five times. Teresa survived and sued. The issue is whether or how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to interactions between People with Disabilities and cowardly cops.

The Supreme Court is weighing in against a number of news stories spelling out the apparently unending stream of cop-involved shootings. Cops are shooting first and asking questions later. The dead and wounded are largely people who experience forms of mental health disabilities and young men who are Black or Hispanic.

Police shootings of people with mental health disabilities tend to follow a pattern. Someone calls the cops about a person who is in crisis. The cops arrive, yet the person in crisis fails to immediately and without question follow police commands - not because the person is a supposed, 'criminal,' but because they are experiencing a crisis associated with their form of mental disability.

In response to the person's noncompliance, the cops begin shouting and draw their firearms. They might surround the person in crisis, or spray them with mace. The crisis escalates and in a panicky effort to resist the person grabs a nearby object such as a pen, mop, screwdriver or knife. The cops, in their gun-happy subculture, shoot to kill and the person with disabilities dies.

In Teresa's case, the cops knew from the get that they were dealing with a disability crisis situation. When these cops found Teresa quiet and contained within her own room, they had the opportunity to use their crisis intervention training. The cops could have surveyed the home, consulted with superior officers on strategies, as well as using calm communication to attempt to convince Teresa to go with them to a hospital.

The fact of the matter? The cops chose not to pursue efforts to help Teresa.

Without a plan for safely interacting with Teresa, the cops entered her locked, second-story room without her permission - two times. The second time they entered with force, shouting, guns drawn and spraying mace. The cops treated her like an animal, in other words. Teresa nearly died from the encounter. She spent months in the hospital and rehab and experiences permanent physical injuries.

Should the Supreme Court rule that Teresa is somehow not protected by the ADA, the decades-long movement to achieve safer police interactions with people who experience forms of disabilities will suffer an incredibly devastating setback. The outcome could eliminate one of the few legal mandates to fight the horrid cycle of avoidable police shootings and killings. No call for help should result in the death of the person calling.

As if this situation in America is not horrible enough - the cops will also not hesitate to shoot your dog; even a service dog.

The Police Will Shoot Your Dog

Far too often, incidents involving the shooting of pets by cops happen when cops are pursuing search warrants, which brings the cops directly onto the person's property or into the homes of the person who owns the pet. Direct confrontations with pets may happen and the pets often times lose; they are injured or killed by gun-happy cops with no respect for the person or their pet. The question then becomes one of whether the injury or destruction of the person's pet may be classified as an unlawful seizure in violation of the pet owner's rights to be free from unreasonable seizure of their property (the pet), under the Fourth Amendment.

Pets are classified as, 'personal property,' under state statutes; however, the Fourth Amendment does not include the term, 'personal property.' Does this mean that seizures by police of a person's property are not covered? Fortunately for the owner of the pet, the answer is, 'no.' The Supreme Court has held that personal property is considered an, 'effect,' for purposes of being considered a seizure under the Fourth Amendment. The Supreme Court stated:

[I]n the context of personal property . . . our cases reveal some general principles regarding seizures. In the ordinary case, the Court has viewed a seizure of personal property as per se unreasonable within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment unless it is accomplished pursuant to a judicial warrant issued upon probable cause and particularly describing the items to be seized.

It appears the police officers in your own community simply do not give a damn about your dog, despite the Supreme Court's ruling. It also seems that police officers will not hesitate to shoot and wound or kill your pet. The police in America also will not hesitate to shoot YOU if you do not immediately comply with their nasty attitudes and, 'shoot everything,' mentality. What else does the Supreme Court have to say

So...your dog; whether it is a service dog or not, is deemed to be, 'property,' by the Supreme Court. The same court also says that when a cop seizes, (or kills) your dog, a seizure of personal property has occurred. The Supreme Court says, "there is some meaningful interference with an individual's possessory interest in that property." The destruction of property is considered to be meaningful interference constituting a seizure under the Fourth Amendment because the destruction of property by state officials poses as much a threat, if not more, to a person's right to be secure in their effects.

Does the Fourth Amendment only cover seizures of personal property that happen during a criminal search? The Supreme Court clarified the issue, stating that the reason why a cop might enter onto a person's property or home does not, 'vitiate,' the question of whether a seizure has happened and whether the Fourth Amendment applies. The reason may be for searches or seizures relating to civil and criminal issues. The Supreme Court said, "In our view, the reason why an officer might enter a house or effectuate a seizure is wholly irrelevant to the threshold question whether the Amendment applies. What matters is the intrusion on the people's security from governmental interference. "

The police apparently do not give one single care about the Fourth Amendment or the Supreme Court. It doesn't matter to cops whether your service dog is just that, or if the pet you own is helping you in any other way. The cops are a population of, 'shoot first and ask questions later,' violent predators in my opinion. What matters to cops is their often times macho, gun wielding culture of self-protection; even against a disability service dog who presents no threat to them.

In general, destruction of property that is not necessary to a cop's duties is considered an unreasonable seizure of property under the Fourth Amendment. The cops of America have endlessly violated the Fourth Amendment in this regard. One has to wonder if the cops of this nation need pop-up books to explain the Amendment.

In the past fifty years, not one cop has died due to a dog, although one cop was killed by a cow. Where an animal is found running loose or presenting a danger, the state would have an interest in protecting the person or property of others and might be justified in killing the animal. A police officer; however, may not simply kill a pet that poses no danger to them. Tell that to Ian, who lost his service dog to a cop who shot it just because it was being nice (see the link below.) The court has held that no cop can shoot a companion animal that presents no threat. Ian laid on the floor with his service dog who had been shot by police, blood pooling around his service dog's head.

The hard fact to face

Police officers in America are certainly no friend to People with Disabilities, or our pets or service dogs. Personally, I won't even look at a cop or give them the time of day, they are far too dangerous.

Overzealous Police

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