Lions and tigers and bears
by Charlie Sewell
August 03, 2014 04:00 AM | 1978 views | 3 3 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Retired Powder Springs Police Chief Charlie Sewell
Retired Powder Springs Police Chief Charlie Sewell
The Atlanta area isn’t known for lions and tigers and bears, but we often see squirrels, and rabbits, and raccoons, oh my. Varmint handling is not on the curriculum at the police academy. Police cadets expect to confront two-legged vermin, but rarely fancy being called upon to deal with four-legged and legless critters.

Police officers often have no clue what they are about to encounter when responding to a call for service. What a caller tells a radio dispatcher can be drastically different from what the officer finds after arriving on the scene.

It was amusing being dispatched to a report of a squirrel attacking a house; it was bewildering upon arrival. I assumed the caller was a whack-a-doodle, but upon arrival it was discovered a squirrel was repeatedly ramming a closed sliding glass door.

The only tools available for a police officer to deal with dangerous animals in the 1970s was the standard issued firearm and any tool found in a home storage shed. Animal control would only respond to dog and cat issues and this terrorist squirrel was clearly not intimidated by my gun, so options were limited.

A sudden brainchild, which some might say was a brain cramp, prompted me to grab a nearby sofa cushion, then open the sliding door. When the squirrel charged the door again, my sheer dumb luck made me feel like a professional wildlife trapper when I surprisingly caught the squirrel under the cushion.

Having unexpectedly arrested the angry varmint, I had no clue what to do next. Fortunately, the homeowner had a pair of extra thick gloves that allowed us to move the now fiercely fighting squirrel into a burlap sack.

The academy taught us how to respond to an armed robbery, and I was not surprised the first time I had to deliver a baby. A call to remove a 25’ python from a bathroom, however, gave me more jitters than facing two dozen terrorist squirrels. At first sight of the mammoth and menacing monster curled under a small hot water heater, I considered pinning my badge to the patrol car seat and walking home. Luckily, a nearby pet store owner with a police scanner heard the call and came to my rescue. The docile and cozy reptile was actually only 5 feet long, but it would not have mattered if it had been 5 inches long. I don’t do snakes.

Written job descriptions list the typical work activities of police officers, but it is not possible to predict every type incident an officer will face during a tour of duty. Police officers can encounter whacky incidents they have never been called upon to handle, and it is a paradox to call a police officer’s day “routine.”

Many people are rightfully sensitive about how animals are treated, yet varmints can be problematic. Using every tool available and all the compassion possible, police officers can be unexpectedly thrust face to face with vicious animals.

An officer might have plenty of options, but just a split second to choose which option to use. There are no wizards to consult and no magic slippers to click that will easily make a varmint go away. The tasks police officers face are ever changing. Thankfully, there is a small group of citizens willing to accept that uncertainty, tread into the varmints den, and tackle the threat.

Charlie Sewell is the Powder Springs chief of police. His column runs monthly in the Marietta Daily Journal.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
GA Dawg
August 05, 2014
Chief, thanks for the slice of life and I got your point. Not sure what anonymous is raging about in connection with your story, but to his point. I will take human safety over a dog any day. Furthermore, when police officers screw-up, their job is in jeopardy and are often fired. I wonder if anonymous is held to the same standard at his job.

Yes I am a dog owner(2) and no I am not a police officer.
old timer
August 04, 2014
I did not see anything about shooting dogs or anything else...only about strange things encountered by squirrels or confronting snakes.
August 03, 2014
Not sure what the chief is exactly talking about.

But, if he is dancing around what has become the common place shooting of pet dogs these days by police officers, well, it is an all too common practice that is getting OLD

So many of these pet dogs are being shot for no reason other than that a cop with an attitude (or a sissified constitution) could do so. In the case of a recent Dekalb county pet dog shooting, the cop would not even let the owner take the dog to get it help. ( The upside to that story is that there was enough of a public outcry that the cop has now had the good sense to resign -- good for Dekalb county --- Lets hope he does not end up on a Cobb County police force).

If the chief does not see a solution to stopping this nonsense pet dog shooting practice, I do. It's called replacing police chiefs. And, if that does not seem to be possible, then replacing elected officials who tolerate this bully nonsense from law enforcement officers will.

Law abiding citizens are tired of unprofessional cops with bad attitudes and the willingness to engage force at the drop of a hat.

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