The Arfee case represents the largest pretrial settlement in the Pacific Northwest for a Puppycide
On July 9th, 2014 Coeur d'Alene Police Department officer David Kelley shot a dog that was locked inside of its owner's car with the windows rolled up (to be specific, the windows were "cracked" to ensure the dog didn't overheat while preventing him from escaping the car).
Kelley's lies about the shooting were immediate, shocking, and widely repeated by police and local media. The 2 year old labrador was a "vicious pit bull", Kelley claimed. The dog had lunged at Kelley's face, despite being held inside a locked car. Fortunatell, Kelley's false statement were contradicted by multiple witness statements. When the event became public, the story went national, prompting outrage and protracted, uncomfortable attention toward the powers-that-be in Coeur d’Alene. In independent investigation ensued, which eventually came to the conclusion the shooting violated department policy. The Spokesman-Review spelled out how the report put the public menace David Kelley caused through the pointless killing of a non-threatening pet in the middle of a crowded street using a firearm in the most polite terms possible:
"The potential for injury to citizens, including a potential suspect in the vehicle, does not appear to have been factored in to the decision prior to using deadly force."
The entire Coeur d’Alene Police force was required to watch the “Police and Dog Encounters” series of training videos. The videos were a joint project produced in no small part by the National Canine Research Council whose work is in our belief the best available in the field of animal related violence research and advocacy. Still, we continue to question the efficacy of training in solving the continuing problem of puppycide.
There is reason to believe that some manner of internal disciplinary measure was brought against David Kelley. Three months after the shooting, the Arizona Daily Start reported that Kelley's pay was reduced by $3.15 per hour. His pay is now $31.02 per hour, or $64,522 annually assuming he works no overtime (which is an absurd assumption). Police Chief Lee White claimed that he is prohibited from talking about disciplinary measures.
Arfee, the dog that David Kelley shot, belonged to Craig Jones, who sued the City of Coeur d’Alene, the Coeur d’Alene Police Department and David Kelley with the help of attorney Adam Karp. Karp has publicly and repeatedly spoken out against the use of excessive force by police against animals:
"Things need to change! Litigation is simply one approach to education and deterrence as well as accountability but there are other aspects to change such as legislatively."
The lawsuit brought by Jones sought an initial claim of $350,000.
This week, the Coeur d’Alene City Council agreed to pay Craig Jones a settlement of $80,000 to avoid a trial that even under the best of circumstances would assuredly prove an embarrassment to city and police officials alike. The Mayor of Coeur d’Alene, Steve Widmyer, was contrite, telling reporters:
"'This was a regrettable event that the city has taken complete responsibility for,' Mayor Steve Widmyer said in a statement Tuesday. 'I want to again extend our apologies to Mr. Jones."
Self-interested motives aside, there is something to be said for sparing Craig Jones the cost and trauma of protracted litigation in seeking redress for an event for which he is unabashedly the victim. The Puppycide Database Project refrains from bashing Widmyer or the members of the City Council.
While a single cash payment is obviously not even the beginning of the much needed reforms that would reduce the number of excessive police force incidents in Coeur d'Alene or anywhere else, the solutions are complex and politically toxic for a whole host of reasons - not least of which is the power wielded at the municipal, county and state level by law enforcement unions, PACs and voting blocks. In that spirit, we breath a half-hearted sigh of relief on behalf of Mr Jones, who clearly deserved his settlement. We certainly are not holding our breath for more comprehensive reform.