Duane Chapman is better known as Dog the Bounty Hunter, and is probably most famous for his long-running TV of the same name, which aired between 2004 and 2012.
Chapman spent 43 years of his life bounty hunting and has apprehended more than 8,000 suspects and now he’s bringing that experience to bare on the issue of police use of lethal force.
He spoke to Newsweek about the need for better police training, alternative methods of taking down potentially dangerous suspects, and the possibility of further lawsuits if things don’t change.
Chapman called for police to “take the lead out” and use non-lethal force in a Fox News interview on April 15. He told Newsweek that interview had garnered criticism but he was standing by his beliefs.
“So first of all, 45 years ago, I committed a felony,” Chapman told Newsweek.
“And so that’s why I cannot carry a real gun. Thank God. So the reason I am who I am today is because of one particular police officer.
“I try to be as Christian as I can, at least I try to, before I make really strong decisions, I think, what would Jesus say or do.
“And one of the greatest scriptures in the Bible is that it a great man—or someone really great—is that person that would lay down his life for another human being.
“I think the Bible was talking about police officers. Like I said, if this one cop wouldn’t have driven me to prison—a two-day drive—and told me that he thought I could change my life, and I could really be something someday, I wouldn’t be the person I am today,” Chapman said.
“My greatest heroes, of course, are police officers. And you know, I’m not one, but I sure wish I would have turned right instead of left and been one.”
Chapman again urged police officers to find other ways to deal with suspects that don’t involve the use of lethal force, and pointed to his own experiences as an example.
“I probably have shot 1,500 people, but I’ve always used non-lethal weapons,” Chapman said.
“I’ve been shot at, I’ve been attacked with knives, machetes, whatever, bull whips, you name it, baby carts, shopping carts. And I’ve never, thank God, had to kill anyone because my non-lethal weapon will drop a mule
“So with one of my weapons, it’s not, he’s got the lead bullet, we’ve got different ammunition. It’s actually, who’s quickest on the draw? If I can outdraw that perpetrator or bad guy, I’m gonna win.
“If he can outdraw me, no matter what I’m using, non-lethal or lead, he’s gonna win. So the whole idea is, of course, the law enforcement to be quicker on the draw, but we don’t need to kill the person.”
Chapman also urged changes to how officers are taught, saying he had been researching police training.
“Six months is the longest police training course that I have been able to find,” he said. “And then here’s your gun? Here’s your badge?”
“But the training has to be all the same training in every state, instead of some states having good training and some states having bad.”
According to a CBS News report from June, 2020, some police in the U.S. receive just a few weeks of training. In Minneapolis, where police officer Derek Chauvin was recently convicted for the killing of George Floyd, training is 16 weeks, followed by six months paired with a training officer.
There are over 18,000 police departments in the U.S. and no national standards.
Chapman weighed in on Chauvin’s conviction and warned that similar cases could soon become common. He also expressed shock at Chauvin’s decision to keep his knee on Floyd’s neck for nine and a half minutes.
“Now that the different groups have come up … and cell phones and recordings, if you’re gonna live by the sword, you’re gonna die by the sword,” Chapman said.
“Get your chequebook ready and get ready to do time. You know, just like this guy who was just convicted for killing Floyd, gonna get the maximum, you and I know that. And they want to give him above the maximum.”
Chauvin faces a potential 75 years behind bars and is due to be sentenced on 16 June.
“It was the first time I’ve ever seen in all these years, cops testifying against cops,” Chapman said of the trial.
“That thin blue line has been crossed. They’re not doing this anymore. They’re not gonna keep their mouth shut because they gotta feed families. And now they’re going to prison because people are sick of it.”
Chapman also warned that police officers and their unions could face potential lawsuits.
“I’m a not a lobbyist, but for 20 years, I’ve been in a lot of states when it’s time to pass laws and I’m there for crime bills,” he said.
“So I understand. And I used to think, you know what, let’s say you’re driving a Dodge and that particular model, the brakes keep going out. You get hit by that Dodge, you sue the insurance company. Well, wait a minute. Now, today, these lawyers are digging into more than the insurance company. They’re suing Dodge. Because they see the brake on that ’75 Dodge always fails.
“Now, I wondered years ago, I wonder why they’re not suing the police unions or the benevolence union when [police say] ‘Well, that’s what he was trained to do.’ Oh, I’m sorry. He was trained to do that. And I thought, uh-oh, again, get your chequebook out because these lawyers are getting smarter.
“You know, humans are all getting smarter and they’re going, what is the root of that? Well, it’s his union. That union trained him to do that. Oh, is that right? Well, let’s sue the union, too. Now, years ago they were silent and no-one ever brought it up.
“The cop made a mistake. We’re gonna sue the city. We’re gonna settle for this much and it’s over. Now, they’re suing the union, the sergeant, the lieutenant, everything that made him do what he did today.”
Police unions have played a major role in opposing reforms. Some proposals would involve changes to training methods.
“These lawyers are digging in because cops were using the excuse ‘Oh, that’s what I was trained to do’ and as you and I know, that worked for years. It’s not working now,” Chapman said. “Oh, you were trained to choke a guy for nine minutes?”
Chapman was once again referencing Chauvin, who held his knee on Floyd’s neck.
The defense at Chauvin’s trial had argued that he was doing what he’d been trained to do with regard to Floyd. The prosecution called witnesses on police training to refute the claim.
Chapman said that in some cases it was better to “humble yourself” when apprehending a suspect rather then being aggressive. He described how sometimes a “crook” he’d been following would tell him “I love you, Dog.”
“Cops are like me. Cops love to be loved,” Chapman added. “And that’s why they got this brotherhood tighter than the Hell’s Angels. They love to be loved.”
Chapman recognized that some of his comments could prove controversial among his fans, including police officers, and he pre-emptively responded to potential criticism.
“I would say, well, the only thing I’m leaning on is my experience,” he said. “There has never been anybody who arrested over 8,000 people in their career because cops don’t go this long. At my age, now, they retire me 10 years ago, FBI marshals, everything.
“I’m going on the experience that I have had that you haven’t. So I’m glad that we both have separate opinions. Let’s talk about something we both agree about. Do you like turkey or ham?”