National Police Misconduct Reporting Project

Police Chief Sounds Off

So this morning I received an angry email from a police chief in Michigan.  His complaint concerns a story we related about a dog getting shot by a police officer.  This is the item from our September 11 recap:

  • St. Louis, Michigan: A local family says their dog was shot and killed at the hands of a police officer. Lori Walmsley, a neighbor, says she saw the incident. Walmsley said the officer asked if the was dog hers.  She said “no,” but told the officer Scout wasn’t dangerous. She says the officer tried to catch the dog, who apparently didn’t want to be caught. The dog tried to run away and when cornered by the officer, let out a little growl. Walmsley says she couldn’t believe what happened next. “He just started shooting him, he just kept shooting him in the head,” she said. “I said, ‘What are you doing? He’s just a puppy!’” bit.ly/PjQbJf

Here’s the email from the Police Chief, Patrick Herblet:

Wow is all I can say. Your general statement to all says you publish strong cases supported by third-party witnesses or other compelling evidence.  You need to get the incident report/investigation from the independent agency, (Michigan State Police) that I by the way requested be done less then 12 hours after the incident.  All you have is the words of a so called witness that changed her story several times and only said, the vicious things she said after the TV camera was in her face.  I could and at some time will tell this whole story, but in the meantime I will stand by the officer making the right decision under the circumstances and the Investigation done by the Michigan State Police and the decision of our county Prosecutor.  I now have zero respect for anything you put in print when I have first hand knowledge that you do absolutely no investigation before you print your vicious hate toward public servants.

There has been a very recent development in the case: No charges against the officer.  I’m not sure why Mr. Herblet is reluctant to tell us the “the whole story” now, but he is confused about a few things.   This site gathers news stories from around the country relating to police misconduct.  We do not have the investigative capacity to go forth and interview the witnesses in each case.   We don’t even have the capacity to do that for the police force here in Washington, DC,  much less police incidents around the entire country.  So Mr. Herblet’s real complaint seems to be with our news gathering method or the  local media who, he thinks,  originally  “printed vicious hate toward public servants.”  But even that complaint seems misplaced.  The reporter related what the witness said.  Of course, a good reporter should always ask the police for their side of the story, but there is no indication that that did not happen here, so what gives?  Even now Mr. Herblet says we don’t have the “whole story.”   He seems to be saying “just trust me!”

I think Mr. Herblet did the right thing as far as calling in a separate agency to conduct an investigation into the shooting.  I do not know whether that agency did a good job or not.  I do not know whether the neighbor/witness is reliable or not.   I do not know whether the dog was “coming at” the officer or whether “coming at” means “walking toward” or “attacking.”  I do know that using a gun is serious business–deadly force!–and that if a gun is used inappropriately, there should be accountability.  There are situations where a cop should not be criminally charged, but neither should he be a sworn officer anymore (accidents, bad judgment, etc).   As always, readers here are  invited to come to their own conclusions.  You have the news stories and we have shared Mr. Herblet’s point of view.  We are as transparent as possible.

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