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Coeur d’Alene officers must view videos on encountering dogs

Craig Jones posted this photo of his black Labrador, Arfee, on his Facebook page. The dog was shot by a police officer in Coeur d’Alene.
Craig Jones posted this photo of his black Labrador, Arfee, on his Facebook page. The dog was shot by a police officer in Coeur d’Alene.

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 Thursday. “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 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. Police initially said the dog was “a vicious” pit bull that lunged at the officer through an open window in the van.

The police chief apologized to the dog’s owner, a former Coeur d’Alene resident now living in Colorado. The department also opened an investigation of the shooting. The results will be reviewed by city administrators and lawyers as well as an outside panel 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.

Wood said the officer’s body camera was not in use during the confrontation with the dog.

The Idaho Peace Officer Standards Academy, which trains law enforcement officers in the state, does not have dog encounter training available, so Clark looked elsewhere.

The Department of Justice series is available free online and consists of five 10-minute videos. Officers learn to read a dog’s body language and differentiate between scared and dangerous dogs. The videos also teach officers how their approach can affect a dog’s behavior, how to assess their surroundings and the risk to themselves, and when to consider using force.

“With training in effective responses to genuinely volatile situations, officers can successfully avoid the worst-case scenarios – being injured by a dog or shooting one,” Donald Cleary, communications director for the Canine Research Council, wrote in an introduction to the video series.

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