K-9 “Officers” Outrank Civilian Humans

Last month, Jeffrey L. Metz of Delaware, Ohio was sentenced to six months in jail and five years’ probation for two felony counts: Failure to obey a police officer and assaulting a police officer.

Metz earned the first charge by leading police on a high-speed chase — up to 90 mph in snowy weather — last January before his car spun out of control. The second charge, a fourth-degree felony,  was filed because Metz struck a police dog, referred to as a “K-9 Officer” in the official paperwork, that was sent to subdue him. The dog, named Thor, lost a tooth.

A few weeks after Metz was sentenced to half a year behind bars for striking and wounding a trained dog owned by the local police, an Ohio State student who struck and accidentally killed a man in Columbus received a 60-day jail sentence. That’s one-third the punishment meted out to a fellow Mundane who merely injured a “K-9 Officer.”

This is exactly how things should be, pontificates Delaware County Prosecutor Dave Yost, since mere Mundanes are simply not as important as the exalted personages — including dogs — who compose the state’s punitive priesthood:

“The police officer or his canine partner are on the job and are present as a matter of duty, and so a crime against them takes on a greater harm to society than an act between two private citizens.”

That is to say that a temporary injury to a police dog is a greater social tragedy than the death of an actual human being.

Of course, canines owned by mere civilians are fair game for police, who can shoot or otherwise dispatch the animals pretty much any time they want to, for any reason they can contrive. (For abundant, heart-wrenching illustrations of this principle, please see Radley Balko’s archive of police “puppycide” accounts.) This, too, is a privilege that sets the state’s enforcement personnel apart from the rest of us, as yet another case from Ohio demonstrates.

Last December, Steven Vanderhoff of Jackson Township was indicted for assaulting a police dog, a third-degree felony. The charge stipulates something Vanderhoff ardently denies, namely that he was aware that Flip, a large, aggressive German Shepherd Belgian Malinois that belonged to a neighbor, was a “K-9 officer.”

Last November 18, Flip — who was running loose because his owner, Findlay (Ohio) Police Officer Bryon Deeter, didn’t restrain him — wandered on to Vanderhoff’s property and trapped Vanderhoff’s girlfriend and infant son in their car.

Vanderhoff managed to get out and retrieve a gun. After doing his best to drive away the dog, whose behavior was described as “aggressive,” “threatening,” and “menacing,” Vanderhoff reluctantly shot it.  The single shot was to the animal’s chest, indicating that it had squared up about fifteen feet away from Vanderhoff.

Had Vanderhoff been a police officer and Flip been the private property of a citizen with an honest job, nothing would have come from this incident — unless the officer who killed the dog wanted to file charges against the civilian for leaving his dog unattended.

Vanderhoff faced five years in prison, and a fine of up to $10,000. Officer Deeter, on the other hand, was not charged or cited for failing to confine his dog.

Oh, one last thing: Police dogs killed in the line of duty receive taxpayer-funded paramilitary funerals, just like their human comrades.

Update —

Despite the fact that Vanderhoff didn’t know Flip — who had no tags or other identification — was a police dog, and Officer Deeter’s negligence was the cause of the November 18 incident, Vanderhoff pleaded no contest to the charges against him. He was given a 90-day suspended jail sentence — which would still be longer than the sentence handed out in the case of the lethal punch described above — and required to “donate” $250 to the local Humane Society (a compelled “donation” is a tax).

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, a native of Findlay, Ohio (where Officer Deeter serves on the police force), donated $9,400 to buy a new “K-9 officer” for the department.


4:58 pm on July 30, 2009