Mayor and police chief respond to delayed reporting of K9 shooting

Mayor and police chief respond to delayed reporting of K9 shooting
Jonesboro police are investigating their own after an officer reportedly shot a K9 officer. (Source: Jonesboro Police Dept.)

JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - The Jonesboro police officer who shot a police K9 last month has been suspended before.

In a Freedom of Information Act request from Region 8 News, we learned that John Porbeck was suspended in 2016 for participating in the “parking lot protest,” at Jonesboro City Hall.

Porbeck was suspended three days because of his actions. He was also placed on 6 months probation.

Porbeck was forced to fire at Rocket, injuring the K9.

Rocket’s handler, Officer Jason Myers had nothing in his personnel file.

Region 8 News had requested, through FOIA, both officer’s personnel records to date.

Due to the incident, both Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin and Police Chief Rick Elliott have released statements on the issue.

Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin:

Mayor Harold Perrin (Source: KAIT-TV)
Mayor Harold Perrin (Source: KAIT-TV)

"As mayor of Jonesboro, I lead a city that is significantly larger today than when I took office over a decade ago. I feel very good about Jonesboro’s progress and overall growth. We are always reassessing and recognizing ways to meet the demands that come with that growth.

A point of pride within our city is that our police department, in concert with our citizenry, has kept crime rates from expanding, as is common in fast-growing cities. Our police department continues to modernize and adapt its operations in spite of budget challenges and a more sophisticated, tech-savvy criminal element.

Unfortunately, a perception has developed that our police department is not fully transparent. This has come to my attention through conversations with our residents, but also in opinions expressed by our local news media, KAIT-TV and The Sun newspaper.

My staff has reviewed these complaints with the police department, the city attorney and Municipal League attorneys, as well as other experts in the field of Freedom of Information law and public information. Our legal counsel has steadfastly maintained that JPD policies regarding public information are appropriate and transparent, withou

t revealing information that could compromise an ongoing investigation.

A recent incident involving a non-life threatening shooting of one of our K-9 officers by a JPD officer, however, has heightened the negative perception. Unfortunately, neither I nor the public were made aware of this incident in a timely manner.

This communication breach coupled with the ongoing perception by some has mandated that these concerns be addressed. I am taking steps to immediately reevaluate and if necessary update our interdepartmental communication protocols.

Step 1 is that I have instructed that from here forward, all incident reports will be available to the public via the Jonesboro Police website, JonesboroPolice.com.

This is a small change, but it’s an effort to ensure the public understands what JPD and your city government does and why we do it. We always strive to follow the best practices available for all our citizens as we progress together into the future.'

Jonesboro Police Chief Rick Elliott:

Jonesboro Police Chief Rick Elliott
Jonesboro Police Chief Rick Elliott

"First and foremost, I take full responsibility for the delay in revealing the shooting of our K-9 officer.

I was attending a body-camera seminar in Arizona when I was made aware of the incident, and my concern at the time was for the dog and determining the cause of the incident.

My Assistant Chief Tim Eads contacted me and immediately turned it over for internal investigation. In retrospect, we should have immediately reported the incident to the mayor’s office and the public.

We don’t regularly report active internal investigations, but this incident should have been treated differently. We know the public’s appreciation and concern for our K-9 team, as well as the expectation of transparency.

I find it personally and professionally embarrassing because it furthers the perception of some in our community, including The Sun newspaper, which has alleged an unfounded conspiracy theory that the mayor, city attorney and I have schemed to hide police reports from the public. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Regardless, the perception exists and this incident only gives validation to that narrative.

I remain confident in our practice of releasing initial reports without ongoing investigative information, as all our legal counsel has supported. But I believe this incident, and the missteps that followed it, deserve and demand a review of our communications practices."

The Jonesboro Police handbook on K9 handling is below:

I. Policy

The Police Service Dog Program was established to augment police services to the community. It is the policy of this department to maintain a highly trained Canine Team. The effective utilization of canines requires adherence to diligent training protocol and operational procedures that properly control their use-of-force potential and channels their specialized capabilities into legally acceptable crime prevention and control activities.

II. Guidelines for the Use of Police Service Dogs

A. A Police Service Dog may be used to locate and apprehend a suspect if the Police Service Dog handler reasonably believes that the individual has either committed or is about to commit any offense and if any of the following conditions exist:

1. There is a reasonable belief that the individual poses an immediate threat of violence or serious harm to the public, any officer, or the handler.

2. The individual is physically resisting arrest and the use of a Police Service Dog reasonably appears to be necessary to overcome such resistance.

3. The individual(s) is/are believed to be concealed in an area where entry by other than the Police Service Dog would pose a threat to the safety of officers or the public.

4. It is recognized that situations may arise which do not fall within the provisions set forth in this policy. In any such case, a standard of objective reasonableness shall be used to review the decision to use a Police Service Dog in view of the totality of the circumstances.

NOTE: Absent the presence of one or more of the above conditions, mere flight from pursuing officer(s) shall not serve as good cause for the use of a Police Service Dog to apprehend an individual.

B. Preparations for Utilizing a Police Service Dog

Prior to the use of a Police Service Dog, to search for or apprehend any individual, the Police Service Dog handler and/or the supervisor on scene shall carefully consider all pertinent information reasonably available at the time. The information shall include, but is not limited to the following:

1. The individual’s age or estimate thereof

2. The nature of the suspected offense

3. Any potential danger to the public and/or other officers at the scene if the Police Service Dog is released.

4. The degree of resistance, if any, the subject has shown.

5. The potential for escape or flight if the police dog is not utilized.

6. The potential for injury to officers or the public caused by suspect if the police dog is not utilized.

A Police Service Dog handler shall have the ultimate authority not to deploy the dog. The handler will evaluate each situation and determine if the use of a Police Service Dog is technically feasible. Generally, the decision to deploy the dog shall remain with the handler; however, a supervisor sufficiently apprised of the situation may decide not to deploy the dog.

C. Warnings Given to Announce the Use of a Police Service Dog

Unless it would otherwise increase the risk of injury or escape, a clearly audible warning to announce that a Police Service Dog will be released if the person does not come forth, shall be made prior to releasing a Police Service Dog. The Police Service Dog handler, when practical, shall first advise the supervisor of their decision if a verbal warning is not given prior to releasing the Police Service Dog.

It is also suggested, but not required, that any assisting police units be notified of the release of the police service dog. (announcement over radio.)

D. Reporting Use of a Police Service Dog

Whenever the Police Service Dog is deployed, the handler shall complete a Police Service Dog use report.

E. Reporting Police Service Dog Bites or Injuries

Use of specially trained police canines for law enforcement responsibilities constitutes a real or implied use of force. In this as in other cases, officers may only use that degree of force that reasonably appears necessary to apprehend or secure a suspect as governed by the Department Use of Force policy.

Whenever a police service dog has bitten or scratched a person the handler shall perform the following:

1. The shift commander shall be notified

2. The suspect shall be taken to the emergency room of the approved medical facility regardless of the severity of the injury. [6.07]

3. Color photos shall be taken of the affected area(s) regardless of the severity of the injury.

4. A Use of Force report shall be prepared as well as a detailed report. The report shall detail the circumstances surrounding the incident, the identity of the individual, witnesses, extent of the injuries sustained by the individual and measures taken in response to the incident.

If no arrest is made, a qualified medical professional will offer the individual medical care and treatment. (Report will still be prepared and photos shall be taken)

F. Assignment of Police Service Dogs

1. The Police Service Dog teams shall be assigned to the Patrol Division to supplement and assist the Patrol officers or may be assigned to other specialized units.

2. Police Service Dog teams should function primarily as cover units; however, they may be assigned by a supervisor to other functions based on the needs of the watch at the time.

3. Police Service Dog teams should not be assigned to handle matters that will take them out of service for extended periods of time unless absolutely necessary, and only with the approval of the shift supervisor.

III. Request for Use of Police Service Dog Teams

A. Other Divisions

Personnel within the department are encouraged to freely solicit the use of the Police Service Dogs. Requests from officers from another shift or division to use a Police Service Dog team should be made to the on-duty supervisor.

B. Requests from Other Agencies

The shift supervisor or the unit coordinator must approve all requests for Police Service Dog assistance from outside agencies subject to the following provisions:

1. Police Service Dog teams shall not be used outside the City of Jonesboro to perform any assignment, which is not consistent with this policy.

2. Upon arrival at the scene, the handler has the ultimate decision as to whether or not the Police Service Dog is to be used for a specific assignment.

3. Police Service Dog teams shall not be called out while off duty or used outside the City of Jonesboro unless authorized by the shift supervisor or the Unit Commander.

C. Requests for Public Demonstrations

1. All public requests for a Police Service Dog team shall be approved by the supervisor prior to making any commitment.

2. Handlers shall not demonstrate any “apprehension” work to the public unless authorized to do so by the supervisor.

IV. Selection of Police Service Dog Handlers

A. Members of the Canine Unit shall be volunteers and shall consist of sworn personnel with a minimum of 2 years experience or above and must agree to be assigned to the position for a minimum of three years.

B. All applicants shall:

1. Submit a letter of interest to the Chief of Police through the chain of command.

2. Obtain a letter of recommendation by the applicant’s immediate supervisor.

3. Maintain above average performance evaluations (80.1 or higher) during the last year of employment.

4. Own or rent a dwelling with an enclosed back yard with sufficient space to erect a kennel to house the police service dog. If the applicant does not own the property currently occupied, the officer shall obtain written permission from property owner for the housing of the police service dog.

V. Police Service Dog Handler Responsibilities

Police Service Dog Handlers shall be responsible for, but not limited to, the following:

A. Availability

The handler shall be available for call-out under conditions specified by their supervisor.

B. Care for the Police Service Dog and Police Service Dog Equipment

1. All handlers will be provided with a properly equipped Canine Unit that will allow a safe and comfortable environment for the canine. The Canine Unit shall be adequately marked to provide suitable warnings and protection for citizens, the Canine, and members of the Police Department. Any officer, as assigned, may operate the vehicle itself without the canine. Periodic inspections to determine that the Canine Unit is properly maintained will be conducted by the Canine Program Coordinator.

2. The handler shall ensure that the Police Service Dog receives proper nutrition, grooming, training, medical care, affection, and living conditions. The handler will be responsible for the following:

a. The handler shall maintain all department equipment under his/her control in a clean and serviceable condition. The equipment to be maintained for each service dog shall include, a leather lead, collar, a container of water and bowl, first aid kit, reward toy (ball, tug, etc), rubber gloves and hand sanitizer.

b. Under no circumstances will the Police Service Dog be lodged at another location unless approved by the supervisor or Unit Commander. When a handler takes a vacation or extended amount of days off, the Police Service Dog vehicle shall be maintained at the approved Police Department veterinary facility.

c. Any changes in the living status of the handler, which may affect the lodging or environment of the Police Service Dog, shall be reported to the supervisor and the Program Coordinator as soon as possible.

d. When off-duty, Police Service Dogs shall be maintained in kennels, provided by the City, at the homes of their handlers. When a Police Service Dog is kenneled at the handler’s home, the gate shall be secured. When off-duty, Police Service Dogs may be let out of their kennels while under the direct control of their handlers. The Police Service Dog should be permitted to socialize in the home with the handler’s family for short periods of time and under the direct supervision of the handler.

e. When off-duty, handlers shall not involve their Police Service Dogs in any activity or conduct unless approved in advance by the supervisor or Unit Commander.

C. Police Service Dogs in Public Areas

All Police Service Dogs shall be kept on a leash when in areas that allow access to the public. Exceptions would include specific police operations for which the Police Service Dogs are trained.

1. Police Service Dogs shall not be left unattended in any area to which the public may have access.

2. When the Police Service Dog unit is left unattended, all windows and doors shall be secured.

D. Handler Compensation

The Police Service Dog handler shall be compensated for time spent in the care, feeding, grooming, and other needs of the dog in accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act.

VI. Medical Care of the Police Service Dog

A. In the event that a Police Service Dog is injured, the injury will be immediately reported to the on-duty supervisor.

B. Depending on the severity of the injury, the Police Service Dog shall either be treated by the designated veterinarian or transported to a designated emergency medical facility for treatment. If the handler and dog are out of the area, the handler may use the nearest available veterinarian.

C. The injury will be documented on a Police Service Dog use report form.

D. All medical attention shall be rendered by the designated Police Service Dog veterinarian, except during an emergency as provided.

1. Non-emergency Medical Care

a. Non-emergency medical care will be coordinated through the supervisor or Unit Commander.

b. Any indication that a Police Service Dog is not in good physical condition shall be reported to the Program Coordinator and the supervisor as soon as practical.

2. Emergency Medical Care

The designated emergency medical treatment center or Police Service Dog veterinarian shall render emergency medical treatment. The handler shall notify the supervisor as soon as practicable when emergency medical care is required.

VII. Training

Before assignment in the field, each Police Service Dog Team shall be trained by a department-approved trainer and certified through a nationally recognized organization, to meet current standards.

A. Continued Training

Each Police Service Dog team shall thereafter be re-certified on an annual basis. Additional training considerations are as follows:

1. Police Service Dog teams shall receive training as defined in current contract with the Department’s Police Service Dog training provider.

2. Police Service Dog handlers are encouraged to engage in additional training with approval of the unit coordinator.

3. In order to ensure that all training is consistent, no handler, trainer, or outside vendor is authorized to train to a standard that is contrary to the policies of the Jonesboro Police Department.

B. Failure to Successfully Complete Training

No Police Service Dog team failing certification shall be deployed in the field until certification is achieved. When practical, pending successful certification, the Police Service Dog handler shall be temporarily reassigned to regular patrol duties.

C. Training Records

All Police Service Dog training records shall be maintained in accordance with the unit commander.

VIII. Police Service Dog Unit Program Coordinator Responsibilities

The program coordinator shall be appointed by staff, and shall supervise the Police Service Dog Program. The program coordinator is directly responsible to the Patrol commander. The Program Coordinator shall be responsible for, but not limited to, the following:

A. Maintain liaison with the vendor kennel;

B. Maintain liaison with Administrative staff;

C. Maintain liaison with other agencies;

D. Recommend and oversee the procurement of needed equipment and services for the unit;

E. Be responsible for scheduling all Police Service Dog related activities;

F. Ensure the Police Service Dog teams are scheduled for continuous training to maximize the capabilities of the teams.

Last Revised: 07/17/18

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