MARC CHASE: Don't let facts get in way of a bad lawsuit

2013-10-24T00:00:00Z MARC CHASE: Don't let facts get in way of a bad lawsuitMarc Chase marc.chase@nwi.com, (219) 662-5330 nwitimes.com
October 24, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Don't let the facts get in the way of a bad lawsuit. That's what we're being asked to swallow in a civil lawsuit pending in Hammond federal court.

Crown Point taxpayers — and all of us, really — likely will be paying in the case of the two Siberian huskies that city police shot dead in July as the dogs aggressively circled the officers and property owners in the Liberty Park subdivision.

The owners of the dogs — which were running around free on someone else's property, collarless, leashless and sinking their canines into a neighbor's cat — have filed a civil rights lawsuit in Hammond federal court against the city and the Crown Point police.

All taxpayers should be livid.

The lawsuit filed by dog owners Bradley Nitz and Lindsay Schild claims their Fourth Amendment rights were violated because the shooting of the dogs constituted an illegal seizure.

Had the police stormed onto the dog owners' property and actually seized or shot the dogs there, I would be inclined to agree.

But that's not what happened here. The police shot the dogs on a plot of land that did not belong to the dog owners. The dogs had broken free while being watched by a friend of the dog owners.

When police came upon the scene, the dogs already had dragged a cat around like a rag doll and were aggressively encircling the cat owner, who was trying to protect his cat. The dog owners, who weren't present at the scene when this was going on, deny in their lawsuit their dogs were acting aggressively.

But the police account was backed up by at least three witnesses, plus five responding police officers.

Nevertheless, the dog owners want us all to pay. Crown Point — and its police — will have to pay to defend themselves against this lawsuit in federal court.

Unfortunately, so many of these lawsuits against municipalities end up with an out-of-court settlement — a payout to the plaintiffs that would be cheaper than litigating the case. Let's hope that doesn't happen.

Meanwhile, the rest of us taxpayers outside of Crown Point are paying, too. Our income tax dollars fund the federal court system providing the venue for this lawsuit. It's an important venue of justice that sadly often is used for very unimportant, frivolous purposes.

The lawsuit also claims Crown Point officers weren't properly trained or disciplined in the matter. The suit claims the officers were "trigger-happy."

It overlooks that police are supposed to operate under one main premise: to serve and protect people. Officers attempted to subdue the dogs with pepper spray. It didn't work.

In the news business, we've all heard the sarcastic phrase, "Don't let the facts get in the way of a good story." In this case, we're being asked not to let the facts get in the way of a bad lawsuit.

Investigative Editor Marc Chase can be reached at (219) 662-5330 or marc.chase@nwi.com. The opinions are the writer's.

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