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CdA police take on dog encounter training

UPDATED: Thu., July 24, 2014, 10:24 a.m.

Every officer in the Coeur d’Alene Police Department must watch a series of short training videos on dog encounters – one of the city’s responses to a controversial dog shooting by an officer earlier this month.

The video series, “Police and Dog Encounters: Tactical Strategies and Effective Tools to Keep Our Communities Safe and Humane,” was produced by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services office, Safe Humane Chicago and the National Canine Research Council.

“Training law enforcement in dog encounters is crucial,” Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Ron Clark said in a statement today. “I am not saying officers should compromise safety, but understanding dog behavior and having nonlethal options will reduce the number of lethal incidents that are a tragedy for all involved.”

The July 9 fatal shooting of a 2-year-old black Labrador named Arfee in a parked van downtown touched off a storm of anger and criticism of the officer, whose name has been withheld from the public, and the police department. Clark and Mayor Steve Widmyer since have issued apologies for the shooting.

Police launched an internal investigation of the shooting and said the results would be reviewed by city administrators and lawyers as well as an outside authority before being made public.

The decision to require the department’s 72 officers to watch the training videos is in response to recent “law enforcement related dog shooting incidents” in Kootenai County, police spokeswoman Sgt. Christie Wood said. Today’s announcement did not single out the July 9 shooting.

Clark found no dog encounter training available through the Idaho Peace Officer Standards Academy, Wood said. The Department of Justice series in available free online and consists of five 10-minute videos on such topics as “police and dog body language” and “use of force considerations.”

Officers learn to read a dog’s body language and recognize a scared dog versus a dangerous dog. The videos teach officers how their approach can affect a dog’s behavior, and how to assess their surroundings and the risk to themselves.

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