A North Carolina Police Department ordered an investigation into a video that appeared to show an officer lifting a police dog off the ground by its leash during a training exercise and slamming it into the side of a patrol car.
Salisbury Police Department Chief Jerry Stokes declined to comment in detail on the episode at a press conference on Tuesday, saying it was “an ongoing personnel matter”. He said the dog had been separated from the officer shown in the video and an investigation was underway.
The 4-year-old German Shepherd, whose name is Zuul, was present at the press conference. “You can see it here today,” said Chief Stokes. “He is in good health and well and will be in normal service in the near future.”
“The dog was not injured and is healthy and well cared for,” he said.
Chief Stokes did not respond to questions from reporters.
The video, which is almost a minute long, was posted by WJZY-TV of Charlotte, NC. The station said it was submitted by an anonymous source.
It was not clear when the video was recorded. The chief did not disclose the name of the agent shown in the video or how the ministry learned of the episode.
City spokeswoman Linda McElroy said Thursday she could not comment further as it was a personnel matter, citing North Carolina law.
In the video, an officer can be seen exiting a police SUV as a helicopter hums above his head, leaving the back door of the car open. The police dog jumps out of the vehicle and tries to follow the policeman, but immediately lies down when the policeman yells at him.
The officer then walks over to the dog and puts him on a leash. He then uses the leash to lift him off the ground and pass him onto his back before heading for the car.
“We’re good, no witnesses,” said a voiceover.
The officer slams the dog against the side of the vehicle – a thud is heard – before pushing it inside. He shouts “Stay!” before raising your hand and hitting the dog.
“Is your camera on?” asks for a second voiceover.
“Ah, no, my power is off,” says the person who appears to be recording.
Chief Stokes told the press conference that the dogs in the department are trained for use against criminal suspects and that officers must have full control over the dogs at all times.
“When a dog does not comply with the handler’s commands, the handler is trained to correct the dog,” he says. “Dog training tactics and corrective action can be alarming at times out of context. SPD cannot and will not say if the training tactics used in the video were appropriate as they are still under review. “
Salisbury is approximately 45 miles northeast of Charlotte. The police department has five dogs and five handlers, Ms. McElroy said.
Chief Stokes said the investigation would include former police dog handlers from other departments, an owner of a police dog training company and K-9 supervisory staff from the Salisbury Department.