Puppycide

Detroit Police Department Blames Drug War for Shooting So Many Dogs

Maybe end the drug war?

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Nicole Motyka's three dogs, two of which were shot by the Detroit police last year on a drug raid // Nicole Motyka

Responding to Reason investigation that found Detroit police officers shot an alarming number of dogs during violent narcotics raids, Detroit Police Department brass say that's just an unfortunate consequence of the drug war.

Detroit is currently fighting several lawsuits over drug raids that resulted in police shooting family dogs. According to public records obtained by Reason, Detroit police shot 46 dogs over a year-and-a-half between 2015 and 2016. One officer alone had shot 69 dogs during the course of his career. The city settled another lawsuit last year for $100,000 after an officer shot a man's dog while it was chained to a fence.

The Detroit Police Department never responded to multiple calls and emails for comment from Reason, but in an interview on Monday with news station Local 4, Assistant Chief James White said the shootings don't happen during regular police runs and disputed the characterization of the animals as family pets.

"This isn't Fluffy the family pet in many instances," White told the news station. "Door comes off the hinges. There's pandemonium. People are running. Perpetrator, in many instances, has a weapon himself, can start shooting. Sometimes the dog is used as a tactic to get the advantage over the officers, and I just don't think it would be acceptable to an officer to put their life at risk to try to stop a dog from attacking them during a drug raid."

There are several issues with both White's comments and how they're framed by Local 4.

First, the headline of the news article says Detroit police "refute allegations that they shoot dogs at an alarming rate." White never disputes how many dogs it shoots per year, which are well above the numbers posted by substantially larger cities like Los Angeles and New York City. The LAPD, for instance, killed eight dogs in 2015. Chicago police shot or attempted to shoot more than 80 dogs over the year-and-a-half period examined by Reason, but Chicago has a population of more than 2 million, compared to Detroit's 600,000.

Neither does White dispute that one of his officers has shot 69 dogs over the course of his career. White says this is because the officer is the pointman on drug raids, meaning first in the door. That shocking numbers makes more sense when taking into account the enormous number of narcotics raids the Detroit Police Department runs every year.

"In 2016, 1,144 known narcotics locations, but during those raids, the teams unfortunately shot 31 dogs," White said in the interview.

Three of those lethal dog shootings happened when Detroit police raided the home of Nikita Smith on a narcotics search warrant. According to Smith's lawsuit, one of the dogs was in her bathroom when police shot it from behind a closed door.

Nicole Motyka, who is also suing the Detroit Police Department, said Detroit police shot two of her beloved dogs while they were behind a wooden barrier in the kitchen. "All I have is weed," her husband Joel Castro shouted as police ordered him to the ground. "Don't kill my dogs."

Both raids were for nothing more than suspicion of selling marijuana. Criminal charges were dropped in both cases. In Motyka's case, it turned out her husband was a state-licensed medical marijuana caregiver.

Here's what one of the officers in the raid on Smith's house said in a court deposition earlier this year obtained by Reason, when asked how many narcotics raids his unit conducts:

"Probably try like three, sometimes four a day. We raid more houses in the nation than anybody walking around God's green earth. We raid more houses than anybody. We do three a day at times."

In the TV interview, White says the department will consider looking at programs in other cities that have reduced their number of dog shootings. However, without a major change in how it fights the drug war, it's hard to see how the Detroit police substantively move those numbers. In fact, this is the exact argument I made in my investigative piece:

Police are routinely asked, especially in cash-strapped cities like Detroit, to handle much more than traditional beat work, including things like mental health services and animal control. Without proper training and resources, they're often put in unwinnable situations.

But on the other side of the national debate on policing that has erupted over the last two years are communities demanding to be policed like communities rather than combat zones. If the Detroit Police Department doesn't reform policies that treat beloved pets like collateral damage in the war on the drugs, the shootings, and the lawsuits, seem practically guaranteed to continue.

I know this is a crazy idea, but maybe the best way to avoid shooting people's dogs would be to stop breaking down their doors and and running into their houses with drawn guns, all because of some marijuana.

NEXT: Let's call them 'constitutional cities,' not 'sanctuary cities,' okay?

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  1. I’d blame all the denizens of Detroit’s ghettoes who feel it absolutely necessary to own a pitbull and use it as not-so-concealed weapon signaling how ‘street’ they are.

    1. Yeah it’s definitely not the people pulling the trigger who are to blame for all the dog shootings.

      1. Bark at a cop like a pug, get shot like a pug.

    2. Caniphobic and racist is no way to go through life, son.

    3. Our property is surrounded by noisy dogs, so my only complaint is that more of them are not being executed.
      .
      Cue the “libertarian” who says he will murder anyone who harms his barking retard.

  2. Isn’t Detroit the place where police soldiers take over an hour to respond to a 911 call? That is, if they respond at all? And they close shop entirely in the evenings?

  3. “Door comes off the hinges. There’s pandemonium. People are running. Perpetrator, in many instances, has a weapon himself, can start shooting. Sometimes the dog is used as a tactic to get the advantage over the officers, and I just don’t think it would be acceptable to an officer to put their life at risk to try to stop a dog from attacking them during a drug raid.”

    Wow, so that really is what’s happening in their heads when they’re doing routine but modestly uncomfortable or displeasing stuff like standing at the podium or taking shower and someone flushes the toilet. Most people need to enter a drug and alcohol induced haze and even usually escalate from there in order to achieve that level of violent incoherence.

    1. Well, keep in mind that these cops are blaming the drugs but they’re not actually specifying which drugs they’re on. I’m guessing hallucinogenics.

  4. one of his officers has shot 69 dogs over the course of his career?this is because the officer is the pointman on drug raids

    Dude, don’t bogart that point, my friend.

  5. Fuck that- own it. Its the dog’s fault you have to shoot it.

  6. “Two out of three ain’t bad.”

    -DPD

  7. “Probably try like three, sometimes four a day. We raid more houses in the nation than anybody walking around God’s green earth. We raid more houses than anybody. We do three a day at times.”

    Heroes!

  8. C.J. Ciaramella, before you even wrote this article, a true investigative reporter would have signed the release at the Detroit Police Department and went for a ride along, first on a normal patrol in to the city, then watch a drug raid. Hint, if they are doing a drug raid, it isn’t for marijuana use, otherwise they would be going to every house left in the city. They are going after dealers. At night, you see abandoned apartment buildings with faint lights in the windows all over the city. These are people smoking crack cocaine.

    While I agree dogs tied up or behind doors and gates had no reason to be shot, this is the situation in far less than 1% of the raids. The norm is the dog has been trained to attack the police when they come to the door or in the yard. This had become so bad in the past, shooting the dogs became a necessary first step in a raid.

    If you do a little research, most of the city has been a war zone since the late 60’s.

    Read the article about the reporter from Great Britain who went on a ride along to see why Detroit officers have to carry guns. His experience is a normal day for the officers.

      1. hth, smooches

      2. Agreed. Hilarious!

    1. Crack cocaine?!?!? Well holy shit! Someone should have said that earlier. We all know what kind of killing machines crack cocaine turns people into.

      1. And dogs on crack cocaine?! Oh man, it’s wolfen all over again…

        1. Yes, well, Wolfen will come after you. With his razor.

    2. JH, you obviously don’t read Reason with any sort of regularity. Otherwise you would have read about all the times dogs got shot on marijuana raids, on raids to a wrong house, and on raids to non-dealing users.

      1. Mostly you read about police shooting dogs in cases having nothing to do w drugs, & in many cases having nothing to do w violations of any kind, but just investig’ns of disturbances or whatnot.

    3. I called and emailed DPD for weeks trying to get basic information on how they’re trained to deal with dogs, and I got no response.

  9. The important question (or an important question) is who do they blame for the drug war.

    The next question is, at what point is “I’m just doing my job” no longer an excuse for such behavior?

  10. Door comes off the hinges. There’s pandemonium. People are running. Perpetrator, in many instances, has a weapon himself, can start shooting.

    You’re confusing me as to who the perpetrator is in this scenario.

    1. The perpetrator is the one who knocked the door off the hinges, at least in a rational world. And the others are right to be terrified of him, because he certainly can start shooting, sometimes by accident.

  11. No, that’s not it. There are many legitimate reasons to stop the drug war, but this isn’t 1. It’s about the incentives & disincentives of police personnel.

  12. Eric Garner’s death wasn’t about taxes, & the dog shootings aren’t about drugs.

  13. I shoot cops who shoot my dogs. Fair warning.

  14. Obviously stop giving the cops the drugs they confiscate.

  15. Drugs are the worst thing which affects to others in a Black way.
    Please guys i request you to avoid Drugs.
    I have seen some guys who are giving drugs to dogs.
    Please guys don’t give these type of drugs to such Important Lovable dogs.

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