Letter to the Editor: Dog dilemma – Woman uneasy with how police handled traffic stop

August 2016 Posted in Columnists & Opinion

To the Editor:
Approximately 10 months ago I moved to Silverton from Portland. I run a dog rescue and sanctuary, as well as am an avid animal activist. Law enforcement and animal control frequently work with me regarding animal abuse, domestic violence involving a dog protecting its owner and puppy mills etc. We always follow the correct procedures. I live five minutes from the little downtown area of Silverton on 3/4 (of an) acre of land for the dogs. Recently, I had a horrible experience with the Silverton police.  This is my story.

Shortly after leaving an appointment at the Silver Creek veterinarian clinic just a few blocks from Water Street, I was driving around a corner going about 15 miles per hour with four rescue dogs secured in my vehicle in metal crates. My cell phone rang with the caller ID showing it was the vet in Silverton. Unfortunately, I had forgotten my blue tooth on the kitchen table. I picked up the cell phone in a panic and said “I need to pull over and will call back ASAP.” I was NOT engaged in a conversation. Once pulled over, I picked up the cell and returned the call. When I noticed a Silverton police on motorcycle approach my vehicle wearing a huge helmet and sunglasses, I rolled down the window and the dogs went crazy. I asked the officer “what did I do?” as the dogs continued to bark loudly. His helmet and sunglasses were frightening the dogs. Two of them were so upset from the officers intimidating look they damage their teeth and gums by biting at the cage. There was blood everywhere and they would not stop barking, they were just trying to protect me. The officer continued insisting I was carrying on a conversation and I tried my best to explain that I was not! He said “I can’t hear you, your dogs bark too much.” I asked for permission to step out of vehicle and he said no. He kept asking me questions and said he could not hear me and of course I could not hear him. Again, I asked to step out. I am under 5 ft. tall, older woman, and not threatening in any way. He actually walked ¾ block away to write a citation for $180.

When he came back to vehicle, I asked if I could speak to him and he refused, handed me the citation and said, “I crossed off where payment goes, you need to send payment to the address I have hand written in.” The next day, I sent the $180 to address he wrote on ticket.

Surprisingly, 30 days later I received a letter with an additional $280 fine and a suspension. I went to city hall and asked to see copy of the ticket. Two very nice young ladies found the ticket and explained they had no idea why the officer did this, the address is a vacant building. Once they investigated, they found the original check, processed it, voided the suspension, and removed the $280 additional fine. I explained to the helpful ladies this officer appeared to have not had any training regarding approaching a vehicle with dogs. They are our protectors, if he would have removed the huge helmet and sunglasses prior to approaching the window it would not have been so threatening to the dogs. I always crate my dogs while traveling in vehicles for safety and it’s the law. It is unfortunate many dog owners do not. This is farm country and you frequently see trucks all day long with Rottweilers, German Shepherds, and Pit Bulls traveling unrestrained. If the officer would have approached a vehicle with a large dog not restrained, the driver and the officer could have been seriously hurt. Dogs protect their owners, it is in their nature. The biggest concern, and with all the recent officer involved shootings, an officer would potentially shoot a dog that may have lunged at the partially down window. This incident was unfortunate and could have been avoided.  We need more communication and more training. Again, I work with other law enforcement regularly on how to approaching a vehicle safely and strongly advise against approaching a vehicle with a helmet and/or sunglasses, it will inevitably lead to confrontation.

My biggest concern is for the innocent animals that cannot defend themselves, that’s what I do.

Jenell Rangan
Silverton

 

Note from the Chief
The police radio com’s run through the motorcycle helmet. If the helmet is removed, (the officer) has to switch over to a different radio system to talk to dispatch. Doing so distracts the officer from the contact and the traffic stop.  Therefore, it is a practice that the motor officer always leaves his helmet on during traffic stops.  I have no plans to change this since doing so impacts officer safety at the time of the traffic stop.

By policy, officers are prohibited from wearing mirrored sunglasses, but are allowed to wear regular sunglasses to protect their eyes from harmful UV rays and glare off of surfaces. The motor (cycle) officer is required to wear either sunglasses or safety glasses to protect the eyes from rocks or debris being kicked up by traffic.  Some officer wear prescription sunglasses, so there is no requirement to take off sunglasses which would restrict their vision in dealing with motorists during traffic stops.

Jeff Fossholm
Silverton Chief of Police

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