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06/12/2007 Archived Entry: ""Take Your Gun to Work Day" -- a tale of people and their police"


One More Way Cops Choose to Act Like Criminals

It all began last week when local cops picked up a pair of young pit bulls roaming the streets near a church day-care center.

Habitual offenders, these pooches. They chase cars and wildlife, frighten pedestrians, and nearly cause accidents. To make matters worse, they're an unaltered sister-and-brother pair. They're approaching sexual maturity and soon to be making little, inbred babies that will probably die of parvo from lack of vaccination. The male is also turning into the sort of pit bull who gives the breed its (mostly undeserved) bad reputation.

Cops usually take these miscreant pups home. Impounding dogs costs money. Our cops don't like to spend money. On the contrary, like most police these days, they spend nearly all their time extorting money -- busting seat-belt scofflaws, stinging people for doing 35 in a 25 mph zone, and raiding druggies in hopes of snagging forfeitable cash and other assets. (Don't even ask how cops handle -- or avoid handling, or grotesquely mis-handle -- violent crime in these parts. That's a story for another time.)

But back to the roving pit bulls ...

This time, there's a difference. This time, the police have an arrest warrant for the young woman (a meth-head) who owns the pups. Call her Tracy Jones. So instead of giving the pooches a free ride home, they haul the four-legged lawbreakers to the veterinary clinic that serves as our only pound. They tell the vet: "Don't release these animals to anybody but Tracy Jones. If she shows up to get them, stall her. Call us. We'll come and arrest her."

Shortly, the plot was to thicken. And the poor vet (who is also my vet and my friend) was to have an ever-so-slightly stressful weekend.

Now here's where I come into the story in a tiny, marginal way: Sunday afternoon the vet, Jeanie, phones me: "Have you got a small, concealable handgun I could borrow? You know, like something I could strap to my ankle?"

Here's how things got to that pass.

It seems that Ms. Jones, aware of the warrant and the possible trap, had sent her boyfriend to fetch the dogs on Friday, the final day of their legally mandated three-day hold. But no dice. Jeanie couldn't release the dogs to him.

The three-day hold period ends. The police chief authorizes a death sentence for the canine criminals. Says he'd be glad to be rid of them. Now normally, Jeanie will do anything to avoid euthanizing healthy dogs. After a three-day police hold is up, if the critters are unclaimed, she'll hang onto them, hoping the owner will still turn up. She'll eventually neuter good dogs and find homes for them if the owner remains among the missing. But she looked at these dogs, with the male growling through the bars. She thought about the consequences of letting them live -- inbred parvo puppies, returns to the day-care center, parents of maimed children suing her. She thought about the chief's authorization. And she went ahead put them both under the needle.

On Saturday she gets a call from Tracy Jones (still cleverly trying to avoid the cops): "Can I come in Sunday to pick them up?" Our cop-shop is pretty much closed for business on Sundays; no arrest likely. When Jeanie explains that the dogs are dead, Ms. Jones goes predictably wild.

Then she gets her whole family in on the act. Pretty soon, every message on Jeanie's cell phone or office line is someone from the Jones family, screaming and cursing. Ms. Jones herself calls back six times, howling imprecations and epithets.

Finally, a woman whose voice Jeanie recognizes -- Tracy's mother, Carollee -- leaves a message with an unmistakable threat, "We're going to come down to the clinic and do to you what you did to those dogs."

At that point, Jeanie calls the cops.

Before we continue, please, just as a small mental exercise, speculate on exactly how much help Our Heroic Men in Blue gave Jeanie after setting her up for death threats. Think about it a moment.

Yep. You got the answer, didn't you?

Get a warrant to arrest Carrollee Jones for threatening Jeanie's life? No. How do we know that's really who made the threat? After all, we only have your say-so that that's her voice on the message. (Besides, if impounding dogs costs money, you can imagine what a dent jailing a human puts in the budget. Jailing druggies can earn you bonuses from the feds. Jailing those who menace others gets you nothing but frowns from your bosses.) They did, for what it's worth, record a copy of the message.

Go to the phone company to find out whether the call came from the Jones home? No. We'd have to get a subpoena, and then the phone company would have 21 days to respond. It wouldn't be worthwhile.

Post a guard outside the clinic? No. That would take up too many resources. Anyway, these people make a lot of threats, but they don't actually ever do anything.

Thus was born "Take Your Gun to Work Day." Jeanie called her employees on Sunday and asked them to bring their firearms to the clinic the following day. Then she called me looking for the "concealable." I don't own any such thing, more's the pity. Couldn't help her there. But she had other guns of her own.

Her entire staff is female. Every one of them is a gun owner and a shooter. (Our cops may be less than useless, but really, you gotta love a place where every woman in an office is prepared to show up armed and ready to protect herself and her co-workers.)

I'm glad to report that Monday went by without incident. At least, without violent incident provoked by the Jones family.

Jeanie did have a few more conversations with the police chief on Monday. About non-response to death threats. About legal liabilities. About the fact that his department set her up by ordering her not to release the dogs to any family representative who came to fetch them while they were still alive. (Even under normal circumstances, the boyfriend would have needed more authorization than he brought; but the Joneses were trying to bail their dogs out while there was still time. Considering that, they'd normally have been given a few days to get their act together.)

The chief's response? (And keep in mind that this is a man who's had a relationship with this clinic since he was a young patrolman.) "We never told you you couldn't release those dogs to the boyfriend. We never told you to get Tracy Jones into the office and stall her. We never authorized you to euthanize those animals."

Posted by Claire @ 04:09 PM CST

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