Wineke: A word of defense for police dogs

Donald Trump

MADISON, Wis. — President Trump, seemingly cowering in the White House basement, sent out a bluster-filled “tweet” to demonstrators surrounding the White House.

Had the protesters managed to breach the White House fence, “they would have been greeted by the most vicious dogs and the most ominous weapons I have ever seen,” the president wrote.

The president is entitled to his view of the weapons Secret Service agents carry. They may, indeed, be “ominous.”

But the White House dogs are not “vicious.” No police department, much less those employed by the federal government, would ever field a “vicious” dog.

That’s not to suggest that a police dog would run up to you and submit to having it’s head rubbed. You would not like to see a police dog running after you. I would not like to see a police dog running after me.

The dogs police forces use, however, are not “vicious.” They are disciplined. They are, probably, the most disciplined dogs you are likely to ever see, much less encounter.

They are highly trained. In this case, they are trained to pursue an intruder and stop that intruder in his tracks. They are trained to stop an intruder even at the risk of their own lives. And they are trained to release that intruder the instant their handler tells them to do so.

That’s the opposite of “vicious.” A vicious dog is not a disciplined dog. A vicious man is not a disciplined man. That’s why you don’t want vicious police dogs and that’s why you don’t want undisciplined police officers.

A vicious dog is a potentially lethal weapon. A police officer is authorized to handle lethal weapons. That’s why we rely on officers to be disciplined.

The only reason I go into this kind of priggish discussion is that it illustrates much of what is wrong with the president’s approach to the violent demonstrations sweeping through our cities these days.

In the first place, he makes them all about himself. I don’t think any of us ever really feared that the White House would be taken by angry demonstrators. Or that a few “vicious” dogs could stop a mob. Trump, apparently, did fear that.

In the second place, the goal of law enforcement, including the National Guard, at times like this is to defuse anger and violence, not foment it.

Yet, on Monday morning, the president in a conference call with the nation’s governors, called them “weak” and insisted that they “dominate” protesters. “They’re going to run over you. You’re going to look like a bunch of jerks. You’ve got to dominate.”

Just how he thinks authorities can pull off all that domination without opening up a mini-civil war is beyond me. But I don’t think he’s helping.