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A federal jury says Chicago law enforcement must pay $330,000 to a family after officers shot their dog during a home raid that turned up no illegal activity.
Thomas Russell, then 18, opened the door to his home in February 2009 to find police officers with their guns drawn. He asked if he could lock up his 9-year-old black labrador, named Lady, before letting the officers inside. The Chicago Tribune describes what happened next:
Police refused the request and came into the house, the lawsuit said. When Lady came loping around the corner with her tail wagging, Officer Richard Antonsen shot the dog, according to the suit, which alleged excessive force, false arrest and illegal seizure for taking the dog's life.
The cops handcuffed Russell and his 16-year-old brother, and eventually charged Russell with obstructing their operation. He was found not guilty. According to NBC, the jury awarded $175,000 to Russell, $85,000 to his little brother, and $35,000 each to the brothers' parents. The officer who shot the dog owes $2,000 in damages, and his supervisor owes $1,000, according to NBC.
The problem is, we've militarized our police forces in the name of the war on drugs.
They can't just show up, serve a warrant and arrest someone anymore. Every warrant has to be served using the same tactics and equipment that the military uses to raid an insurgent compound in Iraq. And because they're now at war with the citizenry, anything that shifts risk from them to the enemy is not only acceptable, but desirable. Shooting dogs makes perfect sense viewed through this lens - it's not on your side, so you shoot first and ask questions later. Shift all risk to the enemy.
Increasingly, you're constitutional rights don't apply until you actually end up in a courtroom. Until that point, you've got all the rights of a prisoner at gitmo. Do what you're told, or be beaten, tased or shot and have your property seized and destroyed without recourse.
Even if we do ever end our pointless, wasteful war on drugs, it's going to take significant effort at a legislative and judicial level to undo the damage that's been done in the last 30 years, and it won't happen until we've cycled out a full generation of cops. I despair of it ever happening.