This case involves a young child who was reported missing by his family after they were unable to find him in their home. After the child was reported missing, the police immediately initiated a search of the local area, and several officers fanned out throughout the neighborhood. One of the officers entered a neighbor’s backyard by scaling a fence during the course of his search, without informing the property owners of his presence or intentions. He had apparently received instructions from his supervising officer to enter enclosed yards in the execution of their search. While the officer was searching the yard, the owner’s yellow lab barked and ran towards the officer, at which point the officer pulled his gun and shot the aggressive dog multiple times, killing the animal.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. Do you know the proper steps and protocols involved with properly searching private property?
- 2. Are you knowledgeable of training that should be provided to officers when searching and confronted with an unknown dog?
Expert Witness Response E-079309
Yes, I am very familiar with police procedures, the laws pertaining to search and seizure, and court rulings regarding their application in actual situations. I possess vast experience concerning the different types of training that officers and supervisors should receive on a continual basis. Conducting searches, the use of force, and options available to officers when confronted by large animals are areas that my experience and training would be of use in this matter. Given the details in this scenario, the instructions that the supervisor issued to officers and the manner in which they carried out those duties raise a number of questions. From my perspective, why didn’t the officer that entered the plaintiff’s enclosed backyard make contact with the homeowner prior to entering the yard? This would have allowed the owner to secure his dog, make the officer aware of the dog’s presence, and avert the officer’s use of deadly force. What exactly were the directions given by the on scene supervisor? Why didn’t he/she inform officers to contact homeowners before they ventured into the yards of the residents? There is a reasonable expectation of privacy by homeowners in their enclosed backyards. Absent exigent circumstances, hot pursuit, or community caretaking, the officers may not have had a legal right to be in the backyards. I also question the officer’s use of deadly force in this matter. Didn’t he/she have pepper spray available or another tool, such as a flashlight with blinding strobe, that could have been implemented before resorting to deadly force?