(2-11-12: Story updated with information on dog-handling techniques.)
Remember back in 2007 when footage came out showing a North Carolina cop yanking and kicking the crap out of his Belgian Malinois patrol and narcotics detector dog? It was very disturbing to watch, although I’m sure much more disturbing to be the dog, Ricoh.
State Highway Patrol trooper Charles L. Jones was fired after public outcry. But a three-judge panel has just ruled that Jones should get his job back. Oh, and he should receive more than $200,000 in back pay.
I’m not including the video here because it will completely sicken most of my regular readers. (If you really want to find it online, you can.) But in case you don’t know the details of what Jones did, here’s a recap, via the Los Angeles Times.
“The video shows Jones wrapping Ricohs leash over a railing, then yanking and raising the dog by its neck so that only its back feet touched the ground. Jones then kicked Ricoh five times, causing the dogs legs to swing out from under it. Jones was disciplining the dog after it refused to release a piece of fire hose given as a reward for alerting officers to the presence of narcotics.”
(Update: OK for those of you brave enough to watch, or who need more inspiration to contact the people listed in the comments, you can find a 15-second version of the video here. Even YouTube has it as a video for 18+ years old only. I won’t embed it in this post.)
Okay, I need to take a deep breath and count to 10. I’ve spent a good part of the last year devoted to the research and writing of my upcoming book (it’s being published in about a month!) on military working dogs, and have spoken with dozens of military dog handlers and trainers, and witnessed countless hours of intensive training. There is no way anyone I dealt with would condone this kind of treatment of a dog because he didn’t want to give up his “paycheck.” What Jones did to Ricoh who had been his dog for six years before the incident is nowhere on the scale of “okay” in the military. I’ve been told by a very respected military dog trainer that this is super old-school training.
Sounds to me like the North Carolina K9 handlers could use some major upgrading of methods. It’s generally about carrots, not sticks, these days, and if this is standard fare for them, they need to make an investment in education. Actually, from what I hear, some smaller law-enforcement communities haven’t upgraded their training methodologies from decades ago. Hard to believe, but if the Jones incident is any indication of what some K9 departments do, some major upgrading of techniques is called for.
As further evidence that this seems like protocol, Jones sued the state. Another state trooper backed him up, saying that dog handlers were trained to “use any means necessary to discipline” a dog to control him. Whoa, it’s not like this dog just ate a trooper’s face for lunch and got a swift punch or kick in the heat of the moment. The dog just didn’t want to give up his reward. There are plenty of other ways of dealing with this.
Oddly, the panel of judges in the latest development were simply upholding earlier decisions by a state Superior Court judge, an administrative law judge, and a N.C. personnel commission. (It was the state’s then-governor Mike Easley who fired Jones in 2007.)
The state Supreme Court may be asked to review the latest decision. But it looks like there’s a good chance Jones will really clean up. He has been working as a police officer in Apex, N.C., so he has been getting a paycheck. The extra $200,000 and getting his old job back could make him feel pretty invincible.
If I were a law-enforcement dog for the N.C. Highway Patrol, I’d start sending out my resume right about now.