Hapless Victim’s Plight Inspires Community Outrage
BY DAVID S. LEWIS
The Livingston Police generated bad feelings around town lately, after having sent their police dog to attack and subdue an employee, a cook at a tavern, who had returned to his place of employment just after closing time (after 2:00 a.m.).
For those who have not heard, the police found the Main Street door to Park Place Tavern unlocked early August 22, called into the hallway, which leads around the corner to Park Street, where there is a separate building, and hearing no response sent their German Shepherd inside to “subdue” whoever may have been in the building, the result being that the dog attacked the cook, severely injuring him.
The cook’s wounds from the dog left him temporarily disabled, and in shock. As of this writing he had not returned to work due to his condition.
Livingston Police Chief Darren Raney justified these actions, according to a statement quoted in the Livingston Enterprise, saying, “It’s acceptable for the dog to confront anybody in the business at that hour.”
To which we say—No, it is not.
Common sense and this recent tragic incident inform us that the actions of the Livingston Police Department were careless at best and, if not, something resembling criminally negligent or what might be called police brutality. An innocent man, posing no danger to anyone, and displaying no aggressive behavior, was brutally and deliberately attacked on private property without having been identified as a suspect, and while posing no threat. The police, what’s more, did not contact the owner of the building about the unlocked door until after the attack. Disturbed about the incident, the owner wondered if he too could be attacked while doing bookwork—it being a common occurrence that downtown bar owners or their employees perform duties after closing time at 2:00 a.m. —Obviously.
We find it hard to believe there is not considerable concern at the Livingston Police Depart-ment regarding this incident (published statements notwithstanding) and suspect that the Chief’s remarks, as quoted, reflect perhaps a legal position in anticipation of repercussions, for few reasonable people, certainly not residents voicing their opinions presently, consider what happened that night an appropriate use of a police dog in a small town, with one resident comparing such tactics to those used by U.S. military forces in Afghanistan. Had the police involved, more over, taken into account the layout of the building they patrolled, and been more familiar with the people they are to protect, they would have applied personal knowledge to this situation instead of acting with reckless aggression.
The news of this recent incident came in the wake of various reported grievances to this publication by residents about the Livingston Police. While we find the police, in general, to be courteous and responsive, and recognize the challenges they face, this brewing negative sentiment should be taken to heart by Chief Raney and his department as a signal that more needs to be done, in a small town community such as Liv-ingston, to build bonds of trust and mutual respect between police and the people they serve.
Sending a dog to attack anybody at all who may happen to be inside a privately owned business, after hours, when employees or owners can often be found in their establishments at such times, hardly rises to that level of service.