Hammond officer placed on leave after dog video surfaces
By Michelle L. Quinn Post-Tribune correspondent May 1, 2014 6:48PM
Screen grab from You Tube video shows a Hammond Police officer lifting his caine partner up by the collar.
Updated: June 3, 2014 6:28AM
HAMMOND — A Hammond K9 officer has been placed on administrative leave following the release of a video on social media that made it appear the officer was abusing his dog.
Two men who train police dogs, however, had a different view.
The video, posted April 30 by user “Mark Keepitreal,” shows the officer in the front yard of a residence. He first pulls the dog off the ground by its collar, then swats it with its leash twice while another officer talks to a handcuffed suspect at a police car.
The officer and the dog then walk away from the yard across the street, the dog wagging his tail.
Mayor Tom McDermott Jr. said Thursday in a news release that he’s “saddened and shocked” whenever he hears anything about animal abuse.
“When you find out it happened with an employee of yours, it makes it that much more shocking and disturbing,” McDermott said. “Please know that the Hammond (Police Department) does not condone that type of behavior of any of its officers, nor is it tolerated in this administration.”
Bob Anderson, a trainer with K9 International LLC in West Palm Beach, Fla., however, cautioned that what looks like abuse to the general public isn’t necessarily when it comes to K9 officers and their handlers.
“It’s all about positive and negative reinforcement with these animals, and you have to train them with physical praise or discipline,” said Anderson, a K9 trainer for 35 years who has worked with the Griffith and Hobart Police Department K9s and handlers. “Some dogs are thick-headed and can take harder correction, while others respond immediately.
“Discipline is measured around the sensitivity of the dog, but if they don’t feel it and hear it, they don’t get it.”
And if the dog doesn’t “get it” and continues to bite a suspect without letting go — potentially injuring the suspect badly — that leaves the department open to liability.
“The dogs we get from Europe are very high-drive dogs, and verbal correction only has some effect,” Anderson said. “You have to be able to teach them right from wrong.”
Pat McInerney, who owns Macs K9 in Crete, Ill., viewed the video and said while he wondered why the officer swatted the dog, the way he handled it by the collar keeps within the training protocol.
“If that dog was trying to bite, biting is a ‘hanging offense,’ and we will choke them out to get them to come to their senses because that shows the animal who’s in control,” McInerney said. “We don’t have enough of the video, though, to see why the dog was being disciplined.”
McDermott said the officer will have his canine removed from his control during the leave while the department investigates the incident.