You would think — or at least hope — that if anyone knew how to handle a dog with professionalism and calm, it would be a K-9 officer, right? After all, they work with their dog every day, bond with them, and have undergone hours of training on how to control and understand dogs. Right?
Last week, the Hammond Police Department in Indiana suspended one of its K-9 officers after an extremely embarrassing video went viral. It shows a K-9 officer (currently unnamed) lifting his dog by the collar, shaking him, and beating him with the end of the leash.
The video went up on April 30, and as these things do, it spread quickly until the Hammond Police Department announced that it was putting the officer on paid administrative leave pending investigation. Lt. Richard Hoyda told NWITimes.com that “At this time, the department has observed behavior by the K-9 handler that appears to be inconsistent with acceptable training guidelines.”
Mayor Thomas McDermott said, “Anybody who loves dogs as much as I do is saddened and shocked when you hear or see a dog being abused. When you find out that it happens with an employee of yours, it makes it that much more shocking and disturbing.”
The Northwest Indiana Times interviewed Bob Fleming, a trainer with more than 35 years of experience with K-9 dogs. Fleming described what the officer was doing as a “choke-off,” a specific technique that’s used to make a dog drop something. He says, however, that it should be an absolute last resort: “I don’t like to see a trainer use a choke-off too much because over time, it could result in injury.”
It’s good that the city of Hammond is acting on the matter; it would be better if it had acted on its own, rather than needing a wave of outrage about a YouTube video to spur it into action. This is another example of how we need to take the duties of police more seriously. Police officers can’t be just a bunch of guys with guns who go after the bad guys; if they’re going to be a benefit to the community rather than another threat, they have to be carefully screened and trained to use only the appropriate level of force.
The video is at this link. Be warned: not only is it graphic, but there’s a lot of harsh language used by the person making the video and the other people watching.
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