I’m sure it’s pretty obvious that I’m going to side with my dog in this case, while recognizing the laws, officer’s jurisdiction, poor judgment and they City’s whitewash and while agreeing with the court of public opinion that the apology, ticket dismissal, reprimand and counseling fall way too short. A desk job, demotion and dismissal would be a good start, since this officer failed to understand the difference between the letter of the laws and their spirit. That lack of understanding can cause a lot of unneeded suffering and even death. Let’s not forget embarrassing, unwanted local and/or national media attention.
This story raises some interesting thoughts, especially in context. Let’s consider the last time San Marcos-based police action garnered national attention, when a local citizen was arrested for saving drowning man. The citizen didn’t think that police standing around on a riverbank was good enough, did the right thing, saved a man’s life and was arrested for interfering with police business. Granted these were university police, egged on by the San Marcos Park Rangers and their leader, but was anything done about it beyond dropping the charges against this citizen? Between these two extremely unfortunate events, we’ve had a couple of controversial cases where the police shot citizens and an overzealous code enforcement department attacked a planter, leading to a first amendment battle.
I’m sorry, but police business shouldn’t and doesn’t have result in death or first amendment battles over correct procedure. And I’m sure that various local officials would agree that police business shouldn’t result in embarrassing, unwanted local and/or national media attention and public outrage, although it seems an almost necessary medicine for solving problems at police HQ and City hall. And that, my friends, is the real problem here: the fact that it takes that kind of attention and outrage to affect change that is for the most part too little and too late. Officer Stephens’ discipline was too little and too late as was the apology. What else will be done? Will the police chief resign or be fired? Will the mayor step down? And one question that nobody else seems to have asked is will the San Marcos Economic council actively seek an emergency veterinary hospital? Perhaps one of the local veterinarians could step up and fill this need?
I for one don’t want to be put in a position of having to decide between public safety and my dog. Or an officer’s career or life. Or the police chief’s career. Or the Mayor’s. My dog’s not just a dog, and getting another one won’t be the same. I could easily be calloused myself and just say “Relax, it's just a police officer, chief or mayor; you can always get another one…” So could this town!