Round Rock, TX — On May 30, 2014, Round Rock police officers entered the home of Hope and Russell Lane while investigating a burglar alarm. Prior to officers entering the home, the alarm had been deactivated by Russell.
Upon “clearing the home,” officers walked around a hallway corner and were greeted by the family’s beloved dog, Bullet, an 8-year-old Rottweiler. Immediately upon seeing the dog get out of his bed, officers fired seven rounds at Bullet.
“They said they came in and said ‘Round Rock Police, Round Rock Police,’ they said they cleared this room, they cleared this room. My dog still hadn’t moved at that time, because he’s a real gentle dog,” Russel said. “They said they got here and one officer turned and looked to this room he looked this way and my dog was standing up on the futon…and they said at that time he jumped off the futon and they shot him seven, they shot him seven times, hitting him five times. But ironically, if they shot him here, there’s two bullet holes at the bottom of the baseboard where he usually lays.”
“They basically came in the house and murdered my dog,” said Russell.
After the shooting, Round Rock police officers simply said that “officers are trained to shoot and defend themselves to stop the threat.” Russell and Hope Lane had no recourse.
The silver lining to this ever so dark cloud, however, is that the department received backlash from the public. Instead of ignoring the backlash and blaming it on “cop hating scum,” Round Rock Police Cmdr. Jim Stuart got proactive.
Shortly after Bullet’s death, Stuart mandated that all of his officers undergo an eight-hour training course. The course consisted of an expert dog trainer explaining to officers how to handle situations involving aggressive animals. It took only eight hours, and Round Rock cops haven’t shot a dog since.
In August, officer Randall Frederick illustrated the positive effects of this training when he was responding to a call out where a 4-year-old boy answered the door. As the 4-year-old opened the door, his overprotective Australian Shepherd darted out of the house and tore into Frederick’s leg.
Instead of shooting the dog, which would have been justified by the department, Frederick reached out with compassion to show the dog that he was not a threat to the boy. As simple as that, the incident was de-escalated.
Had Frederick not received this training, it is very likely that he would still have been bitten and Jillaroo, the family’s dog would have been killed in front of a 4-year-old.
Frederick’s reaction highlights the power of training, as well as the lack of training within so many police departments across the country.
Unfortunately, this lack of training is not only a problem when dealing with dogs. Police officers killing mentally ill people is an unfortunate norm in today’s society as well. The lack of training and incompetence in dealing with mentally unstable individuals is a deadly fault among departments from coast to coast.
A study released last year by the American Psychiatric Association found that Crisis Intervention Training (CIT)-trained officers “had sizable and persisting improvements in knowledge, diverse attitudes about mental illnesses and their treatments, self-efficacy for interacting with someone with psychosis or suicidality, social distance stigma, de-escalation skills and referral decisions.”
Imagine that. Training actually leads to skills to foster the preservation of life. If a 100-pound female nurse in a mental hospital can calm down a mentally ill patient on a rampage, there is absolutely no reason that 200-pound cops with bulletproof vests should resort to violence.
When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail. It’s time American cops get something besides a hammer.