When the “Everybody Does It” Excuse Works: Police Dog Cruelty in North Carolina

In January, Ethics Alarms named the North Carolina State Personnel Commission an Ethics Dunce for reinstating North Carolina State Trooper Sgt. Charles Jones, who had been fired for abusing one of his police dogs. He had been videoed as he hung the dog, Ricoh, and kicked him for not releasing a chew toy on command. The Commission heard testimony from officers regarding the brutal training methods routinely used by the police, and ruled that by practice and law, what Jones did was not what they call “abuse” in North Carolina, at least when it is done to police dogs.  “Though disturbing, the treatment of Jones’ animal does not rise to the level of ‘abuse,'” the ruling reads, and even if it did, the Commission noted that the Wake County, N.C., animal ordinance specifically exempts police dogs.” In other words, abusing police dogs is acceptable conduct for K-9 trainers.

The ruling came after the testimony of other dog handlers had prompted the Highway Patrol to suspend all use of dogs, anticipating public outrage. Governor Easley also pushed for Jones’s dismissal after the video surfaced, and he made certain that the Commission’s reinstatement of Jones was appealed.

You’re not going to like the result.

Superior Court Judge James Hardin Jr. ruled this week that Jones was improperly fired, and should recoup back pay and attorneys’ fees.  The judge concluded that although Jones’ actions—hanging and kicking— were not among the “training techniques” specifically approved by the Highway Patrol, they were no worse than methods The Highway Patrol did allow, such as whipping dogs, hitting them with sticks, and using choke collars and stun guns. “All of these training techniques are extremely harsh and well beyond what an owner of a typical ‘house’ pet would use to discipline or train a ‘family’ dog,” Hardin wrote.

Thus, he reasoned, it was unfair for Jones to be fired for his treatment of dogs when the other troopers regularly abused their dogs just as badly.

Here is the really amazing part: Judge Hardin’s ruling was correct, and is therefore a useful, if nauseating, example of when justice diverges from ethics.

The only reason Jones was fired was because the video embarrassed the state, and the governor got involved. Jones was scapegoated for an entire state organization engaged in animal cruelty as policy. His video exposed the ugly truth, the use of dogs in the Highway Patrol was suspended, and Jones was fired as part of the cover-up. Jones, animal abuser that he is, had a legitimate complaint. The same superiors who allowed a culture of animal abuse to fester fired him for being part of it.

Unfair. Illegal. Dishonest.

“Everybody does it” does not make unethical conduct ethical, but it is a legitimate defense when the “everybody” who “does it” tried to take your job away for doing the same thing. The judge didn’t say that the abuse was right. He said that it was unfair to fire an abuser from an animal abusing organization for abusing animals.

What the Highway Patrol did was kind of like firing someone from Al Qaeda for endangering civilians, or MSNBC fining Keith Olbermann for showing a liberal bias.

The appeal was narrowly confined to the issue of wrongful termination only. Should Jones be prosecuted for animal cruelty? Yes, but he can’t be: cruelty to police dogs is permitted in North Carolina. Should everyone involved in the culture of cruelty that made Jones untouchable be fired? Yes, but it will be hard to do.

I think it is clear that no state should want animal-abusing personnel in positions of power or carrying guns, because such individuals lack the judgment, compassion, and fairness to be worthy of trust. North Carolina had some work to do. Its Highway Patrol needs to be cleaned out. It is an ironic result: Charles Jones has a right to continue to work for a cruel, irresponsible police force, because he’s no more cruel than anyone else.  But the cruel, irresponsible organization he works for needs to start from scratch with officers who are better than Sgt. Jones.

At least the Highway Patrol doesn’t have dogs to torture any more.

Read more: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2010/11/24/1862093/ruling-rehire-fired-k-9-state.html#ixzz16MeIo7jt

4 thoughts on “When the “Everybody Does It” Excuse Works: Police Dog Cruelty in North Carolina

  1. Pingback: Keeping Your Dog » Blog Archive » When the “Everybody Does It” Excuse Works: Police Dog Cruelty in …

  2. The FBI has as one of its clear profile elements the abuse and murder of animals as a prelude for for murder and serial killing of human beings.

    So.hurray, North Carolina! Part of the “new south.” I am more than relieved that I need not depend on the NC state police to protect me.

    Yesterday I saw on the news the story of a bomb sniffing dog that was partnered with a soldier in Afghanistan. When they happened upon some kind of land mine, the nearly mortally wounded dog crawled over to his human soldier partner and covered him with his own dog body to protect him. The poor dog was unsuccessful, but the family of the deceased soldier has taken in the dog, gotten him well, and realizes that that dog was the best friend their son ever had.

    Considering the story about Sgt. Jones in North Carolina, do you think that well-trained, tortured, humiliated dog would have done the same thing?

    We know more and more about the sentience of animals. And PETA and carnivorous humans notwithstanding, we know that dogs cannot only lead the blind, they can raise the spirits of the infirm, they can serve as assistants for the deaf, they can (sometimes) anticipate impending seizures in their masters, etc. Do all of these incredible abilities emanate from tortuous training?

    Nope. They come from an uncanny, almost mystical connection between human and dog. And that emanates from shared love.

    Anyone who can mistreat, beat, torture, or even just not bother to feed a pet is, in my opinion, a sociopath in the making. I would very much like Sgt. Jone of the NC State Police to be “trained” in the way he did his helper dog.

    I know they won’t read this, but I would ask the ASPCA and the Humane Society to focus some attention not just on individual cases of animal abuse or puppy mills, but on organizational/governmental abuse of animals as well. I know they have their hands full, but this is a new horror I was heretofore unaware of.

    I give monthly to the ASPCA through automatic deduction. It’s not much, but every little bit helps. More should do the same.

    Meantime, go FBI and others to shut these sadists down. Please.

  3. It’s not just the south. It is all over this country, and the world. And the large groups aren’t doing anything, that I can see, to stop it. Having worked in it, and in two governments, my very strong opinion is that the FBI doesn’t give a hoot. Just like the PD’s, it’s all public relations. And as for the ASPCA, look up how much money their CEO makes from people’s donations, and what they did to a dog named Oreo. http://www.stopk9torture.com

  4. Also, can anyone tell me what ever happened to Roy Herndon, the officer who secretly videotaped the hanging and kicking of Richoh? I sure would like to know, because (as a whistleblower myself), I have an overwhelming feeling that he was made to suffer a great deal more than Trooper Jones ever did over this.

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