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Petitioning El Monte Police Department Chief Steve Schuster and 6 others

Change policies and training on how officers deal with dogs

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An El Monte police officer shot a 2-year-old German shepherd who she says was charging at her. The canine had to be euthanized. The family says they asked police for advanced notice before they visited so they could chain up the dogs, but the officers walked into the yard apparently without calling first. See video as shown on NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on June 22, 2013.

The El Monte Police Department needs to make changes to it's current policy and police officers need to receive training on proper handling of dogs, to know when a dog is dangerous, and when lethal measures are deemed and when they are not. There have been many cases of late in which police departments all over the US have retrained their officers with success. Here is one example and model for the El Monte Police Department to use immediately:

Read here for a similar case and action taken by responsible police department--we want El Monte Police Department to learn from Austin PD's mistake: Dog shooting prompts police to change policies

In the wake of a backlash over the fatal shooting of a man's dog in East Austin in April, the Austin Police Department on Tuesday announced several changes to its policies and training on how officers deal with dogs.

Assistant Police Chief David Carter said a new policy that will go into effect July 1 addresses the options officers have when compelled to use force against dogs.

One of the most significant changes to the policy, Carter said, is that it is more specific on what constitutes a dangerous animal and when an officer can use deadly force against one.

The new policy clarifies that lethal force is authorized if officers decide there is "imminent danger of bodily harm" to themselves or another human, not when a dog is simply acting aggressively, Carter said. It requires a higher level of discretion; the old policy was less specific and said lethal force can be used if an animal is a threat to safety.

The new policy also explains alternatives to deadly force, including yelling at a dog, firing a Taser or using pepper spray.

There are other revisions as well, Carter said. The new policy raises the level of scrutiny on fatal dog shootings. If an officer does use deadly force against a dog, he or she must explain why lesser force was not used, and the incident will be reviewed by the entire chain of command — not just an officer's sergeant, as is current policy, he said.

"It raises the stature" of dog shootings, Carter said. "We need to be as accountable for the shooting of a dog as any other force."

Carter said that dispatchers will be required to tell responding officers whether a residence has a history of dangerous dogs being present. If the home does, Carter said, city animal control officers will also be sent there automatically.

The changes come after a highly publicized incident in which officer Thomas Griffin was dispatched to a possible domestic disturbance on East Fifth Street in late April but was sent to the wrong address. There, he encountered resident Michael Paxton and his blue heeler, Cisco.

Griffin fatally shot Cisco after it charged at him, police officials said. Paxton has denied that the dog was being aggressive.

After news of the incident spread on Facebook, the department dealt with a public relations backlash.

Carter said the investigation into that shooting is closed. No policy violations were found, and Griffin received no discipline, he said.

Since then, Carter said, the department has been looking at other law enforcement agencies around the country to determine the best practices when it comes to dog encounters.

"Quite frankly, we learned a lot from this process," he said. "We learned a lot from the community, who had great concern about it."

He said cadets at the training academy will undergo a two-hour session on how to deal with dogs that may confront them.

The training will cover how to read a dog's body language and judge whether it is dangerous and what the options are when responding to a dangerous dog call, officials said.

Those classes will be taught by an officer who is experienced in handling and owning dogs and will emphasize less-than-lethal ways to deal with aggressive dogs, Carter said.

Current patrol officers will complete training sessions online and before shifts, he said.

Previously, Carter said, lessons on how to deal with dogs were somewhat scattered throughout the curriculum.

Police officials said that, since 2002, there have been 89 incidents in which an Austin officer was attacked by a dog.

Paxton said Tuesday that the news of the policy changes was "bittersweet" for him but that they sounded positive overall. He said he continues to receive fans and messages on the Justice for Cisco page on Facebook.

He said that he filed a complaint against Griffin with the police monitor's office and has retained a lawyer but that they have yet to discuss a possible lawsuit.

"It's sad that my dog had to die for this to happen," Paxton said.

The incident was not the first time deadly force against a dog provoked controversy in canine-friendly Austin. In November, an officer shot a dog after it bit him outside a North Austin grocery. In 2000, an officer responding to a home burglary alarm in Northwest Austin said he killed the owner's dog after it approached him while barking.

Contact Patrick George at 445-3548 [eom]

[end of similar case 'Cisco' - proceed to the story of Kiki who was shot by El Monte Police Officer on June 21, 2013]

This petition was delivered to:
  • El Monte Police Department
    Chief Steve Schuster
  • El Monte Police Department
    Captain Daniel Buehler
  • El Monte Police Department
    Captain Michelle States
  • El Monte Police Department
    Captain Santos Hernandez
  • El Monte Police Department
    Chief of Police Steve Schuster
  • El Monte City Council
    El Monte City Mayor Andre Quintero and Member of the City Council
  • Office of the City Manager
    Acting City Manager of El Monte, Jesus Gomez

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