Norwalk, Ia. -- A blind and disabled Norwalk man's trip outside to tie up his three dogs has touched off a controversy that has embroiled Norwalk's police department and City Council, as well as the Iowa Department of Human Services.
Bob Haskin, 64, was knocked unconscious on the afternoon of Nov. 3 when he fell in the doorway of his home and struck his head.
One of his dogs was already tied up, and another dog remained inside Haskin's home. But Riley, a black Labrador-golden retriever mix, escaped while Haskin was unconscious.
When he regained consciousness, Haskin noticed Riley was missing and began calling for her, despite spasms running down his back and pain in his head, arm and shoulders, he said in an interview.
"If I'd had the cordless phone, I would have dialed 911," Haskin said. "I was hurting and probably needed a rescue."
Instead, the telephone rang while he was yelling for Riley. It was Norwalk's police dispatch, calling to say that there was an officer at Haskin's house who wanted him to retrieve his stray dog.
Along with being blind, Haskin has an artificial right leg, and toes have been amputated from his left foot. He suffers from diabetes and has had 16 strokes, triple bypass surgery and a kidney transplant.
Haskin claims that Norwalk Police Officer Doug Metzger demanded that he retrieve his loose dog because it was charging.
While Haskin continued to hang onto the door and ask for help, Officer Metzger threatened to shoot his dog or use pepper spray on the animal.
The officer allegedly used pepper spray on the dog. Haskin eventually got the dog back inside his house, he told the Norwalk City Council last week.
Haskin went to the council to report what he claims was the police officer's refusal to help him.
"I said that I really need help," Haskin said. "He drove off."
But Haskin's dealings with Norwalk police did not end there.
Another officer reported the Norwalk man to the Iowa Department of Human Services for abuse of an adult - himself.
After the first officer left Haskin's home, Haskin left a message for Police Chief Ed Kuhl and asked him to have an officer other than Metzger return his call.
Another officer called Haskin that evening.
Haskin explained that he did not need an ambulance anymore. The officer informed Haskin that he had to turn him in to DHS for abuse. The next day, a social worker came by his house.
"(They) accused me of abusing me," Haskin said. "The girl from the DHS said it was unfounded. We're set up just fine."
Police officers have a responsibility to report the possibility of abuse, said Roger Munns, a spokesman for the DHS. People must be deemed as dependent adults in order to abuse or neglect themselves.
"When you're an adult, it's assumed you're capable of making decisions for yourself," Munns said. "People are allowed to make dumb decisions."
Haskin may have difficulties, but he does not qualify as a dependent adult, according to a DHS case worker's report received by Haskin.
The report said the allegation of abuse was unconfirmed.
"I can't think of an example of a person who's been found to have abused or neglected himself," Munns said.
Haskin told members of the Norwalk City Council that he wanted them to be aware of the incident so it would not happen again.
"I should never have been put in that situation at all," Haskin said. "I should have had rescue come assess me like they've done in the past."
Kuhl, the police chief, said Tuesday that he has completed his review of the incident and would make a report to Norwalk Mayor Pat Wahl by Monday on whether the proper procedures were followed by officers.
"It's the kind of thing that's a good thing to look at anyway to make sure things are being done properly," Kuhl said.
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