By Frank Parlato
In the past few weeks The Niagara Falls Reporter and its sister publication Artvoice have published a series of stories about how police killed pit bulls in paramilitary drug raids that yielded no arrests of the occupants of the victimized homes.
It stirred resentment against police who kill dogs.
Last week we reported that “Use of Force” forms filed by the officers who killed the dogs seem to contradict necropsy reports of the SPCA’s doctor of veterinarian medicine.
This added to the resentment since it appears the dog killings may have been unnecessary.
In telling the story, Artvoice reported that some police forces, including the Niagara Falls Police Department, use CO2 fire extinguishers, spraying potentially aggressive dogs instead of shooting them.
This added hope since someone is saying, on the record, that it’s not necessary to kill dogs on drug raids.
Niagara Falls Police Superintendent Bryan DalPorto told Artvoice that a fire extinguisher stuns and frightens dogs and makes killing unnecessary.
We also noted The US Department of Justice published an advisory which states, “A fire extinguisher produces noise, cold, a bad taste, and an expanding cloud—a combination that frightens dogs. Many police departments use fire extinguishers effectively when going in on drug raids if they believe a dog might be on the premises.”
Among commenters on our story was renowned animal rights advocate, Nathan Winograd, the father of the No Kill movement. He pointed out that every year over 10,000 dogs are shot by police in the US.
Winograd took notice of the Buffalo Police, referring especially to Buffalo Narcotics Detective Joseph Cook, who shot and killed more than two dozen dogs during raids over a three year period — more dogs than all New York City police officers combined during the same period.
Detective Cook claimed every dog was “aggressive” and a threat to his safety, according to “Use of Force” reports he filed each time he shot a dog.
What also upset people about the three “botched” raids – where police encountered no drug dealers but killed two pit bulls – were contradictions between Buffalo Police Detective Charles Militello and Erie County Sheriff Deputy Chris Ginnane and the SPCA vet – regarding “Use of Force” reports which stated the dogs posed imminent danger and they shot at point blank range to save life and limb.
Yet the necropsy reports by Dr. Helene Chevalier, a doctor of veterinary medicine working at The SPCA Serving Erie County, stated the dogs were shot at a distance.
And in both raids, police came up empty-handed, while killing dogs in front of their owners, in one case a two-year-old child, raising questions about the reliability of confidential informants or “snitches” who provide police with information that is considered probable cause for these paramilitary raids.
As Winograd wrote for his national audience, the Niagara Falls Police Department’s “use (of) fire extinguishers instead of guns to repel dogs,” if used nationally this would make, “tens of thousands of dogs … safe.”
Artvoice would like to request that Detectives Cook and Militello, Deputy Ginnane and other officers who now shoot dogs, contact the Niagara Falls Police Department to investigate using fire extinguishers to harmlessly subdue dogs instead.
INNOCENTS RAIDED TOO
This would not only save dog s, but possibly human life, too. In the three ‘botched” raids studied by Artvoice, not only were two dogs killed, but two people were almost killed.
In one instance, the .45 caliber bullet that killed a pit bull named Gotham went through the floor of an upper apartment, narrowly missing the woman living downstairs.
In another incident, police battered down a door which came crashing open within a few feet of two-year-old Cayden Meers, whose obituary we would now be reading had he been closer to the door.
Of course, the concept of raiding innocent people’s homes as part of a war on Americans who use drugs is in contravention to historical freedom principles.
It flies in the face of Blackstone’s rule for a free people, which is that “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”.
Instead, there is no regard for the innocents – and that includes dogs.
There are many reports of raids gone wrong.
* A SWAT officer steps on a baby’s head while looking for drugs in a ceiling.
* An 11-year-old boy is shot at point-blank range.
* Innocent people held at gunpoint as police ransack homes and find nothing.
* A targeted home ends up in flames and a puppy trying to escape is chased back into the burning building and burned to death.
* A cop kills two neighbor’s dogs on his way to the raid as he sneaks across the lawn of the neighbor.
* A family dog is shot and the bullet ricochets and strikes a 13-year-old boy handcuffed at gunpoint at the time.
There are many cases where people have been killed – innocent people – and, of course, 10,000 innocent dogs per year.
Some say that “this is war – on drugs – and there is always collateral damage in war.”
FINANCIAL INCENTIVES FOR RAIDS
Botched raids don’t mean a thing until it happens to you. Police rarely raid homes of affluent people.
And one must acknowledge, there is often a financial incentive in war.
Police departments get funding provided they raid enough homes. The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services’ Operation IMPACT offers funding for Buffalo Police to raid homes.
“Operation Restoration” an IMPACT strategy initiated to restore “the luster and vitality to neighborhoods that make up the fabric of the city,” is one such finding source for Buffalo Police.
Detective Militello, who killed the dog Gotham and almost killed the woman, Jamie Krafchak, according to seethroughny.net, earns $101,571 per year.
Christien Ginnane, who gunned down Damian first blowing his leg off, then shooting him in the head twice, earns $92,410.
And dog killing champion, Det. Joseph Cook earns $120,699.
A lot of that is overtime and a lot of that comes from 6:30 am raids like the one that killed Gotham – scaring people awake who are no more drug dealers than your grandma.
Besides extra grant money and the overtime it generates – keep in mind that whenever police bust into a person’s home and find a minuscule quantity of marijuana or a pain pill or a bit of cocaine dust, they get to confiscate cash in the home.
That adds up for the department, too.
LITTLE SEIZED IN AVERAGE RAID
For years, Mayor Byron Brown and the Buffalo police have announced the fruits of their paramilitary raids.
A careful analysis shows that the big arrest numbers and quantities seized support the concept that most homes raided are either those of innocent people or drug addicts (not dealers).
For instance, a 2010 press release stated that Mayor Brown and Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda announced that the Buffalo Police Department Narcotics Unit, SWAT Team, Violent Crimes Impact Team and the K-9 Unit “completed another phase of their relentless attack on illegal drugs and illegal guns, after a two-day series of raids primarily targeting the City’s South Side.”
Said Mayor Brown. “They will continue, in all areas of the city. Drug dealers and other criminals should not feel comfortable, because we are coming for them.”
Innocent, poor people should also not feel comfortable since police routinely bust down their doors too.
In that round of raids, 12 arrests were made, and police confiscated six ounces of marijuana, two ounces of crack cocaine and assorted prescription pills. Also seized was $11,554.00 in cash.
Now take a moment to assess this.
Twelve people were arrested after police battered down their doors to obtain six ounces of marijuana—and two ounces of crack.
If an ounce of marijuana costs $450 and an ounce of crack costs $1200, then those 12 people had their doors busted down and were arrested for an average of $225 of marijuana and $100 of crack per arrest.
Interestingly, police also seized almost $1000 in cash per person arrested.
CASH TAKEN FROM INNOCENT POOR
As attorney Matt Albert, who regularly represents people who have had dogs killed by police, said of the cash seized, “In those areas, there are not many banks and many individuals don’t trust banks or don’t know how to open up accounts. So they keep their earnings at home. I have clients whose mothers and girlfriends’ funds, honest money, was seized. They have pay stubs, receipts, but the city still steals and keep the funds. The point is, a lot of that money is not drug money. Not by a long shot.”
Another police press release showed how, in a five week period, raids netted 62 arrests, and the total number of search warrants executed on poor people’s homes surpassed 800 for the year in Buffalo.
Search warrants were conducted in the Fruit Belt area, Broadway-Fillmore area, East Side and West Side.
That is not to say police never arrest serious dealers. In May, more than $1.2 million in cocaine and heroin was seized as 20 suspected drug dealers were arrested in a raid organized by Buffalo Police.
But where is the protection for the innocent? No one in America – no, not even poor minorities – should have their home wrongly invaded by government. There should be no tolerance, even in a failed war on drugs, for such incursions on liberty. We need to return to Blackstone.
This July, police conducted 15 raids arresting nine people. They found small quantities of marijuana, a bit of heroin and some crack cocaine –– not the amounts possessed by dealers but by addicts – but they killed dogs and grabbed ready cash and frightened the wits out of poor people, some of whom had the misfortune to have a joint in their home.
Another police press release stated that 30 homes were raided in black neighborhoods to seize one and a half ounces of crack cocaine, marijuana and a few Lortabs — about $1,000 worth of drugs.
About $33 in drugs per home.
Police took $10,000 in cash from poor people living on Carl, Cambridge, East Delavan, Ernst, Glenwood, Moselle, Northumberland, Stevens, Sussex, Bennett Village, Goodyear and Langfield, where the 30 raids took place.
And managed to arrest 25 poor blacks, who, in all likelihood, couldn’t afford lawyers and through assigned counsel took a plea.
OUTRAGE HURTS POLICE IMAGE
Meantime, if police want to understand how unpopular raiding homes and shooting dogs are, they might want to read some comments posted on various sites since Artvoice started publishing this series.
Some of the comments are violent and most of these we will not reprint. Yet in the interest of fair comment, we republish some of the less extreme, only to serve as a barometer of how emotional people feel about this issue. By no means do we condone these views:
* Come into my house and kill my family member, you’d better get used to sleeping in body armor!
* How would you react if they erroneously entered your home and shot your family member in the process? Then they walk away like they’ve done nothing wrong, and face no consequences?
* These cops need to be outed and their names and photos plastered on every corner. They continue to kill what are basically people’s family members and if the law won’t do its job, I say let citizens and the street sort it out.
* These dogs had their homes broken into by Gestapo cops illegally.
* These cops should never be able to own a pet in their life. They should be fired and registered as animal cruelty offenders for LIFE.
* Buffalo police … just totally corrupt and totally inept.
* Way to build community relations, officers! Beyond sickening. Just wondering how many white people’s dogs were killed like this? But then again, it’s widespread police practice to do most of these petty busts in black neighborhoods because if they pulled this crap in a white neighborhood the outcry would be taken seriously.
* Puppycide (police dog killing) is occurring throughout the U.S. The police are not discriminating against dog owners they are killing everybody’s dog when they go to the wrong houses.
* If the BPD won’t change the policy, they need to be taken to court to have the policy changed for them.
* The real problem is not the police. The real problem – the ROOT problem – is the failed war on drugs and the no-knock raids. End the war on drugs and you end all of this plus much more – nearly all of the racial tension and more than 50% of all gun crime in America is a result of the failed war on drugs and the black market it creates. End the war on drugs. End the violence.
* Shooting a dog over a harmless plant… It’s disgusting!! … leave pot and pits alone you scumbag cops!!!
* Incidents like this are textbook examples of violation of people’s Fourth Amendment rights against illegal seizure and destruction of private property. Sue their azzes.
* They won’t improve their behavior unless the public demands it.
* Bumbling idiots and chest pounding bullies. They probably practice drawing their firearm in the mirror every morning before work.
* The problem is they feel they are above the law and can do anything they want.
* How necessary is it to bust down doors for drug cases? I am seeing countless people and animals shot and killed over and over again. So many are wrong homes. Are raids the only way to handle these issues?
* I wish I wouldn’t have read that (story). I am physically ill. I hope that Gotham and Damian’s families WIN their court cases and the cowardly murderers get prison time.
* The killing of these dogs by the cops were straight executions.
As attorney and animal rights advocate Peter A. Reese said, the owners of these dogs are victims when “an army of trigger-happy cops bash down their doors to search for the drugs they didn’t have.”
Attorney Albert concurs, “Evidence, including the forensic evidence, points to a thrill kill relating to Damian. After the dog’s leg was blown off, they fired two shots to the back of his head while the dog was helpless. They dragged the owner over and made him watch his best friend die. Any logical view of the evidence in its totality establishes this killing was both unnecessary and malicious.”
So how about considering fire extinguishers?