Florida starting linebacker Antonio Morrison has been suspended from the team after he was arrested for barking at a police dog. That’s right, the 19-year-old was arrested for walking up to a police dog and barking at him. Gainesville police then added a second, and equally dubious charge, of resisting arrest without violence. Morrison came up with a novel defense: he insisted that the dog barked at him first.
According to the Alachua County Sheriff Office’s report, the police responded to a suspicious incident and disturbance call at 3:43 a.m. Sunday at a Gainesville hotel next to a nightclub. Officer William A. Arnold was investigating the suspect vehicle when a group of several men came walking along. Arnold says that Morrison approached his patrol car and began barking at “K-9 Officer Bear” through the open window. It took me a second, that “Officer Bear” is the dog. Officer Bear then responded by barking at Morrison which Arnold says diverted his attention from investigating the vehicle. Arnold described a “woof-woof sound”as the triggering act for the crime. Since the dog was in the car, it is hard to see how it was interfering maliciously with an investigation by “Officer Bear.”
The Florida law (843.19 Offenses against police dogs, fire dogs, SAR dogs, or police horses) is written in an absurdly broad way:
Any person who intentionally or knowingly maliciously harasses, teases, interferes with, or attempts to interfere with a police dog, fire dog, SAR dog, or police horse while the animal is in the performance of its duties commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
Teases or attempts to interfere? It is hard to see where to draw the line on a tease. Is a child sticking out his tongue at a dog enough if he wants to get the dog to bark? What constitutes a malicious act? Morrison insists that he was engaging in defensive or responsive barking. Is that a defense?
This is combined with a charge of resistance often means not moving fast enough or not cooperating. Any opposition or obstruction will do. It is such a broad concept (like interfering with a police dog) that officers could interpret any movement as uncooperative or obstructive.
The problem of Morrison is that this is his second arrest. He was arrested June 16 after allegedly punching a bouncer at a Gainesville nightclub. It looks like he will miss his first two games with the Gators as a starter. It is remarkably stupid since he has a real chance for a NFL shot as a starter with a top college team. However, many teams are leery of a player who do not seem to be able to control themselves. Obviously this is not as serious as now fired Patriots Tight End Aaron Hernandez. For example, my team (and God’s team) the Chicago Bears showed little tolerance for being arrested recently with one of its players. Last month, they waived Evan Rodriguez after his DUI arrest May 31 — his second such offense. He was a Bears draft pick in 2012.
What is astonishing is that the trend of NFL arrests seems to be growing according to recent reports. Thirty former or current NFL players have been arrested since the end of last season. These players do not seem to be able to control themselves for the relatively short period of a NFL career with millions at stake. To start such a record in college, is a huge mistake. It is not fatal. There are some draft picks this year with such records. Indeed, Bears star wide receiver Brandon Marshall has a prior history of troubling conduct, including an arrest as a student at UCF for assault on a law enforcement officer, refusal to obey, disorderly conduct and resisting an officer.
In Morrison’s case, the second arrest is highly dubious and I would be surprised if it stood up, at least the barking at the police dog. His June 16 arrest for simple battery led to a deferred prosecution agreement that allows the charges to be dismissed after six months if he fulfills the terms of the agreement. He must pay $100 in prosecution costs and either an additional $150 or perform 12 hours of community service as well as complete a University of Florida drug-and-alcohol abuse course, attend an anger-management course and participate in two eight-hour ride-alongs with the University of Florida Police Department. That would not seem a major barrier to his career. However, another arrest could make him radioactive for some teams if he decides to go pro. They do not want to give up a draft spot and spend a great deal of money on a person without self control.
I am very sympathetic over the second arrest and I believe it is the arresting officer (not the K-9 officer Bear) who has the most explaining to do. After all, barking is a long honored football tradition — just ask Jim “Mad Dog” Mandich formerly with the Miami Dolphins, or Baltimore Colts Linebacker Mike “Mad Dog” Curtis. Indeed if Bear were present at many games, the result would be mass arrests: