Hammond officer on leave after video shows him hitting police dog, lifting it by its collar

2014-05-01T14:35:00Z 2014-05-19T19:56:10Z Hammond officer on leave after video shows him hitting police dog, lifting it by its collarMatt Mikus matt.mikus@nwi.com, (219) 933-3241 nwitimes.com

HAMMOND | The Hammond Police Department placed a K-9 police officer on administrative leave Thursday after a video posted on YouTube shows the officer hitting and lifting a police dog by its collar during a traffic stop.

The video shows the officer lifting the police dog off the ground by the collar and hitting the dog with the leash.

The video was posted Wednesday and began to spread on social media.

In the video, another officer is detaining an individual, when the camera pans over to show the handler and the dog.

"The Hammond Police Department has reviewed a recent YouTube video concerning a Hammond Police K-9 officer," Hammond police Lt. Richard Hoyda said. "The involved officer has been placed on administrative leave pending a full investigation of the incident.

"At this time, the department has observed behavior by the K-9 handler that appears to be inconsistent with acceptable training guidelines," Hoyda said.

Because it is a personnel issue, the officer's identity is not being released.

Hoyda said the incident happened at 169th Street and Olcott Avenue about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. The K-9 unit was called to assist at a traffic stop. No one was arrested, but the car was towed following the stop.

Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said the city does not condone behavior of that nature, reading from a post he made on his Facebook page.

"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," McDermott said. 

"Please know we do not condone that type of behavior in the Hammond Police Department, nor in my administration. We are investigating the video and will have more to say on this matter once the investigation is complete."

He added there will likely be more to the story following the investigation because the video shows only a minute of a police stop that lasted longer than 10 minutes.

He said the officer involved has had a good record with the force.

Bob Fleming, a K-9 dog trainer and owner of Landheim Training and Boarding Center in Dyer, has 35 years of experience training dogs.

A police dog has a higher drive than regular pets, so different training techniques need to be used to ensure safety.

"Their drive is so high, control techniques for an average pet wouldn't necessarily work," Fleming said.

He told The Times after watching the video that the officer likely was using a ball to reward the dog for its work, but the dog wouldn't respond to an order to let go.

From watching the video, he believed the officer used a specific technique called a choke-off that forces the dog to drop what it's holding.

Fleming said he teaches officers to only use a choke-off as a last resort.

"I don't like to see a trainer use a choke-off too much because over time, it could result in injury," he said.

He added the officer in the video may not have been taught other techniques and could have believed what he was doing was correct.

Striking the dog and lifting it off the ground, however, is not a training technique, and Fleming believed those actions were unnecessary.

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