The Arlington Police Department instituted a mandatory training program this past June to assist officers in dealing with dogs that are encountered during daily activities. “The goal is to provide training to officers about non-lethal options for handling dogs and gather a better understanding on dog behavior,” said Sgt. Christopher Cook who oversees the Office of Communication. “By being able to recognize dog behaviors, such as types of barking, the way a dog approaches, and other clues, our workforce will be trained to respond to situations that involve dogs in homes or moving freely in neighborhoods,” said Cook. In the end, improved officer confidence with appropriate animal-handling reactions will go a long way toward increasing the public confidence in our response to situations that involve dogs.
The department started training after recent shootings that have generated public scrutiny and questions. Approximately 80% of Arlington’s 640 sworn officers have already completed the initial video training segment. All officers must complete a test and pass with a score of 100% in order to successfully complete the training program. The department is also instituting classroom instruction starting in January that will consist of 4 hours covering a variety of topics related to appropriately handling encounters with animals.
Training Sergeant Jimmy Salinas said that the department teamed up with Assistant Director of Code Compliance Services Mike Bass, who oversees Code Compliance and Animal Services, on how to appropriately respond to and recognize dog behaviors. “We selected Animal Services since they routinely handle dogs and can provide valuable insight and guidance on responding to these types of encounters in lieu of using deadly force,” said Salinas. By partnering with Animal Services and relying on their professional experience, officers will be better equipped with the necessary tools to facilitate appropriate outcomes.
The classroom instruction will be taught by our K9 team, consisting of a sergeant and three handlers. The curriculum is based upon best practices that include creative options when dealing with non-aggressive and aggressive animals. The course includes specific instruction on how to read a dog’s body language and ways to distinguish between types of barking and stances. Options and tools, will also be presented to officers to minimize the possibility of having to resort to deadly force to stay protected from perceived or actual aggressive animals. It is basically an extension of the initial video training that officers received this summer.
“The last thing we want to do is use deadly force on an animal. We are dog lovers, we are dog owners, and we use dogs in police service. Canines provide a valuable service to our community and serve as our partners,” said Sgt. Cook. “Often times in the early stages of an incident it is very frustrating because only limited details are available while the investigation is occurring,” according to Cook.
When deadly force is used, a thorough fact-finding investigation occurs. Back in May of this year, Interim Police Chief Will Johnson changed the way Internal Affairs investigates these types of incidents. Now, Internal Affairs investigators are required to respond to every deadly force incident involving an animal. This allows the department to collect valuable evidence, conduct interviews, and respond to the needs of the community after an incident. “Public-safety issues such as dealing with dog-related incidents cannot be resolved by police in a vacuum. Collaboration and partnerships with the community including animal advocates, external stakeholders, and Animal Services are required to engage and promote responsible pet ownership and provide a foundation for effective and appropriate police response,” said Chief Johnson.
The public can also assist the department as this training continues for officers. Crate your dog or properly secure them during contact with law enforcement. Check all fences, gates, and screens to prevent your dog from escaping. Always have your dog on a leash when in the public domain and never let them roam unattended. Inform officers of the presence of a dog upon arrival to your location. Residents can learn more by going to the Animal Services page located at www.arlingtontx.gov/animals.