N.C. Highway Patrol took its police dogs out of service indefinitely Wednesday, after a hearing exposed rough obedience techniques
such as shocking, suspending and kicking dogs. , Staff Writer
Bryan Beatty, secretary of the state Department of Crime Control and Public
Safety, ordered the suspension of the canine program until a review is completed showing what training techniques were used
and how they compare to generally accepted practices. The patrol has 10 dogs that mostly sniff out drugs.
believe that we need to look at the operations, determine whether or not they are following proper procedure and whether or
not we need to make any major changes to the program," said Beatty, who oversees the patrol.
The review comes
after several troopers testified during a three-day hearing into the firing of patrol Sgt. Charles L. Jones for mistreating
Jones was fired in September, a month after a trooper used a cell phone to record footage of Jones suspending
his dog, Ricoh, from a railing, then kicking him at least five times. Jones, who is seeking to be reinstated, testified that
what he did was not abusive and that trainers had used several other rough methods.
Ricoh, a 7-year-old Belgian Malinois,
was not seriously hurt. He has since been retired from the patrol.
While none of the troopers in the Jones hearing
testified that they had similarly punished a dog, they recounted many other harsh measures. They said dogs had been shocked
with stun guns, kicked, suspended from their leashes until they were nearly unconscious and hit with plastic bottles filled
with stones. Troopers talked about twirling dogs on their leashes in a method known as helicoptering; in some cases the dogs
were released while they spun in the air.
The troopers said the procedures are necessary to control powerful, aggressive
dogs that can inflict serious injury. Some police dog training experts dispute the tactics, saying they are relics from a
time when dogs were used more for crowd control than drug interdiction.
Beatty said he was surprised to learn such
tactics were being used. A previous review reported that such tactics exist but not within the patrol, he said. The patrol
banned the use of shock collars three years ago.
"We've had no complaints about the unit," Beatty said.
"It has performed well and served a very valuable function in terms of narcotics detection. It's taken a lot of drugs
off the highways. And, until the videotape of Jones, there was no indication that there was any problem."
said that the patrol will request dogs from other police departments if needed. He did not rule out ending the canine program,
which has been in use for about 20 years.
The dog-kicking video became public Monday when it was shown during the hearing.
Since then, it has been played nationally. It can be found on YouTube, and popular rapper 50 Cent linked to it from his Web
site this week.
Gov. Mike Easley's office said it has received scores of calls and e-mail messages supporting Jones'
firing. A forum on The News & Observer's Web site had about 200 postings that overwhelmingly supported Jones'
In his own words
On Wednesday, Jones, 39, testified in his defense. A 12-year member
of the patrol, Jones said that he did not abuse Ricoh and that he would not have been fired if his actions had not been recorded
He teared up twice during his testimony. The first time was when he was asked how he felt about Ricoh.
spent more time with Ricoh than I did my wife," he said.
The second time was when he described the process that
led to his dismissal. Evidence showed that he was originally headed for no more than a three-day suspension, but when the
media learned of the video's existence a second investigation kicked into high gear. Easley and his staff looked at the
video and told Beatty and a patrol spokesman that Jones should be fired. He was, less than 10 days later.
The day Jones
was fired, he said, he spoke with the patrol's commander, Fletcher Clay, who had removed himself from the disciplinary
proceedings because Jones' wife is an assistant to Clay.
"He said, 'The politics had gotten involved in
it, and I couldn't stop it,' " Jones said.
Jones said he was tough with Ricoh because the dog was aggressive
and often refused to release objects, particularly toys that were given as rewards. Jones said he has scars on his back and
arms from Ricoh's bites. Jones said he kicked Ricoh to get him to release a toy.
Too valuable to retire
Ricoh was valuable to the patrol, having located cash and illegal drugs totaling $10 million during a six-year period,
Jones said. That's why the patrol continued to use Ricoh, Jones said, instead of retiring him.
Law Judge Fred Morrison is expected to issue his findings in the coming weeks.
The case has exposed a lack of state
or national standards for training police dogs. The first review noted that not much has been put in writing because police
departments fear that the public would be outraged at some of the tactics.
John Midgette, director of the N.C. Police
Benevolent Association, said the suspension of the canine program has struck fear in the troopers who testified on Jones'
behalf. Midgette called it "clear retaliation to the troopers who testified truthfully and honestly."
said troopers will not be punished for testifying. But he said those who mistreated police dogs could face disciplinary action.
"You can't kick, you can't strike, you can't slam a dog against a wall," Beatty said. "That
is inhumane and unacceptable, and anybody who thinks you need to do that to maintain control doesn't need to be handling