In light of continued comments and concerns regarding the Battle Creek Police Department’s treatment of dogs during calls at area residences, Chief Jim Blocker has issued the following statement:
“On Dec. 19, a federal appellate panel of three judges wrote a unanimous, but controversial, opinion related to dogs, which upholds the work we do in the Battle Creek Police Department.
“In 2013, our highly-trained SWAT Team served a warrant to search for drugs and guns at the home of a known, violent gang member. Upon arrival, two large pit bulls guarded their home, aggressively blocking the officers’ initial protective sweep of the house, aiming to secure it against those who might destroy evidence or attack officers. The dogs posed an imminent threat and, unfortunately, were shot as a result.
“Many of our officers are dog owners and animal lovers themselves, so this isn’t a situation they want to face, and they rarely have to. The case was about what happens when aggressive guard dogs do their duty to guard a house, a role that pits them against officers doing a sometimes dangerous, but necessary, job. Two federal courts independently reviewed whether our officers acted reasonably by shooting the dogs in the 2013 case, and concluded that our actions were constitutional.
“Recent reports and comments regarding this case have created controversy and omitted some key facts. This was not a case about mere barking or keeping score. The case involved a high-risk warrant to search the home of a dangerous person, a small space where officers were immediately faced with two large, aggressive guard dogs, one of which lunged at the team lead.
“We are grateful the case got a full and fair hearing. It is from this case that we are reviewing our policy, tools, and techniques to best react to these high-risk encounters, when dogs might be present. I hope that everyone can hear the true facts, but we continue to be confident that our officers do their very best to perform their duties professionally, skillfully, and constitutionally, avoiding harm to dogs whenever possible, while still doing everything necessary to help protect and secure our community against violent and destructive activity.”