If A Suspect Gets 34 Years For Killing a K9, Why Does A Deputy Only Get Fired?

Someone explain the logical consistency here, please.

K9 Jethro

When a law enforcement K9 killed by a suspect, the suspect often as treated as if the suspect shot and killed a human officer. We saw an example of this earlier in the week when a violent criminal named Kelontre Barefield was sentenced to 34 years of his 45 year sentence for killing Canton (OH) K9 officer Jethro in January during a robbery.

The man convicted of shooting and killing a K9 officer was sentenced to 45 years in prison Wednesday.

Kelontre Barefield plead guilty and received 34 years for killing Jethro, plus an additional 11 years for other charges.

Jethro was with Officer Ryan Davis when he was killed in January. The two were responding to a burglar alarm at Fishers Foods.

Jethro was shot during a confrontation with Barefield, who also was shot in the leg.

Barefield was convicted of several charges including aggravated robbery, felonious assault and assaulting a police dog or horse.

I’m not here to debate the merits of whether or not crimes against law enforcement K9s should be treated any differently than crimes against other animals. That’s frankly outside the scope of what we cover here.

What I would like, however, is some consistency.

If the life of a law enforcement K9 like Jethro is going to be viewed as being on par (or nearly so) with the life of a human law enforcement officer, then anyone who is responsible for the death of a police animal should be held to the same standard (or nearly so) as killing a human officer.

If a human officer willfully abandoned his partner to die of heat exhaustion, he’d be not only fired, he’d immediately be brought up on felony charges.

So why is that even a question here?

A Stephens County deputy was fired after his K9 officer died while in his care.

The incident came to light August and, since then, the Stephens County Sheriff’s Office has conducted an investigation and terminated Matthew Peck.

The investigation has been turned over to the district attorney to decide if felony animal cruelty charges with be formally filed.

“We were shocked, and we’re saddened,” said Stephens County Sheriff Wayne McKinney. “This is a loss of one of our deputies or K9 deputies.”

K9 Deputy Bak was just 2 years old when he joined the force, but his name will be joining those of four other fallen deputies on a monument outside the Stephens County Courthouse.

“The handler has the utmost responsibility to make sure that that dog is well taken care of,” McKinney said.

Peck has been Bak’s partner for four years until sources said he left the dog inside his deputy cruiser during his days off work.

Sources said he did not discover the animal until days later when he was back on duty.

He smelled the dead animal while on his way to court one morning.

Sources said Bak was left inside the deputy’s car for 36 hours.

Former Deputy Matthew Beck should face felony criminal charges for animal cruelty for leaving his K9 Bak to cook to death in his police vehicle in the August heat. Oklahoma doesn’t put the same value on the lives of K9 officers, as Ohio does, however, and it appears that killing a police dog during a felony (such as felony animal cruelty?) only carries a two-year maximum sentence.

So which should it be?

It would seem to me that there should be some sort of consistency in how law enforcement animals are treated under the law.

If we value them only as equipment and look at them cooly only in that regard, they still have associated training, maintenance, and replacement costs that I think would easily run into five-figures (if anyone with specific knowledge of these costs would like to weigh in below, I’d appreciate it). If they are just “things,” and another tool, then they should be treated consistently as such.

If law enforcement K9s are to be viewed as “partner officers” with the same seriousness that we view our human officers, though, then it would seem that their lives, sacrifices, and service should be taken as seriously (or nearly so) as the humans the serve alongside with such faithful devotion.

Perhaps the balance lies somewhere in between.

What we’re seeing in these two cases, however, is a huge disparity in how the deaths of the two law enforcement K9s are being treated under the laws of their respective states, and to me that seems to be very wrong.

K9 Jethro died relatively quickly from a gunshot wound at the hands of a violent thug. K9 Bak was abandoned to die a slow, suffocating miserable death at the hands of his handler, former deputy Matthew Peck.

Frankly, I think the latter was the greater betrayal, and in a truly just world, deserves a stiffer sentence.