About 70 members of Ohio police departments and other law enforcement agencies plan to attend a session in Woodville to train officers on how to use non-lethal defensive tactics when they encounter aggressive dogs.
Mayor Richard Harman said Canine Encounters Law Enforcement Training (CELET), of Arlington, Texas, will be presenting the training program May 4 at the United Methodist Fellowship Hall.
Providing such training for officers was something the mayor pledged in the wake of the Nov. 3, 2014 shooting of a dog by a village officer. The dog, a chocolate Labrador named Moses, was shot in the leg when it approached the officer, who was conducting a traffic stop on U.S. 20. The dog survived but the leg was later amputated.
A review of the shooting cleared the officer. However, the incident drew much media attention as residents poured into village council meetings to voice their anger with the police department or express support for the officer.
“Getting people trained is the key,” the mayor said last week. “We want them to have a better understanding of how to control the situation without having to shoot a dog. They need to learn when and how to use non-lethal responses.”
Jim Osorio, who established CELET in 2005, said he saw a need for training but has noticed it has become more widespread in recent years.
“When I first started this training there was a definite void,” he said. “But within the last few years it has been increasing more that departments are very interested in training their officers in canine encounters.”
CELET now has three full-time instructors and 45 Train-The-Trainer instructors nationwide. Osorio estimates the program has trained more than 18,500 police officers.
Woodville Police Chief Roy Whitehead said officers from departments in Clay Township, Bowling Green, Fostoria, Clay Center, Cleveland, and Columbus have registered to attend as have personnel with the Cuyahoga County Housing Authority, Sandusky County Parks District, Wayne County prosecutor’s office and several county dog wardens.
The mayor said more applications will be accepted until the number of those attending reaches about 85.
There is no fee for the program, which is being privately funded, he said.
The session is expected to last about eight hours. A light breakfast and lunch will be offered.
The Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission has approved the session for meeting continuing professional training requirements for police officers.
In the days and weeks following the shooting in Woodville, Mayor Harman received more than 100 calls from dog lovers across the country.
“Some of them were quite nasty but I called every one back,” he said. “From those calls came a couple of real diamonds. One person told me I was the first mayor ever to return their call.”
One gem, encouraged just by the mayor returning his call, was Jeffrey Justice, who pushed for training of police officers in Colorado before a law requiring the training was to go into effect this year.
A case that caught Justice’s attention involved a dog being shot by an officer who went to the wrong address while responding to a call.
Justice also posted on Facebook his “tough guy self image was completely shattered” when he listened to the testimony of a woman whose dog was killed in Erie County, Colorado while the bill was before a committee.
Mayor Harman said his own research has been an eye-opener. The number of dog shootings nationwide caught him by surprise.
Still, it serves no purpose to “vilify an officer” who hasn’t been trained, he said. The Woodville officer involved in the November shooting was bitten in the leg by a German shepherd last summer while responding to a call. The dog showed no aggression initially and the bite didn’t break the skin, possibly because the officer was wearing cargo pants. The dog’s owner thanked the department for the officer showing restraint, Chief Whitehead said.
The mayor also praised an Idaho resident, Edith Williams, who formed the Idahoans for Non-Lethal Canine Encounter Training group on Facebook, for offering training videos and other assistance.
“She has been a tremendous asset,” he said.
Mayor Harman has contacted State Rep. Bill Reineke (R – 88th district) about proposing a bill in Ohio to require statewide training for officers similar to the Colorado bill.