Local News

State suspends Highway Patrol K-9 operations

Posted April 30, 2008

— State officials suspended all K-9 operations in the Highway Patrol Wednesday afternoon, following testimony in an administrative hearing regarding controversial training techniques.

Bryan Beatty, secretary of the state Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, suspended the operations as of 2 p.m. Wednesday, saying he was disturbed by evidence that some troopers thought kicking a dog was acceptable training.

"I don't know if any of them have done anything inappropriate," Beatty said. "We're going to make sure they haven't and make it clear that, if we're going to have a program, we're going to run it properly.

"I'm not accusing anyone. I'm simply saying, based on the information that we received in testimony (Tuesday), it at least raises serious questions about what's going on."

Beatty said testimony about "abusing dogs to get compliance" was inconsistent with an independent review of the K-9 program done last September.

Maj. Jamie Hatcher of the patrol's Special Operations Division would handle the review, Beatty said, noting that the 10 troopers who work with dogs will remain on duty, but the dogs themselves won't be on active duty until further notice. He said all options, including doing away with the program, would be considered after the review.

Former Sgt. Charles Jones, a 12-year veteran in charge of K-9 training for the Highway Patrol, was fired in September after another trooper turned over two 15-second video clips of Jones suspending his K-9 partner, Ricoh, from a railing and kicking the dog repeatedly to force it to release a chew toy.

(Caution: Contents of the video may disturb some viewers.)

Jones has sued to regain his job, saying he was fired only because staff in Gov. Mike Easley's office pressured the Highway Patrol to get rid of him.

Evidence presented at the hearing showed the patrol had planned to punish Jones with a maximum three-day suspension. One of Jones' superiors testified Tuesday that he was told to fire Jones by "an outside entity."

Beatty had said previously that Jones' firing came after a careful review of the case, but attorneys for the state conceded Wednesday that Easley intervened in the case.

"On or about Aug. 31, 2007, Governor Easley decided that Charles Jones ... should be dismissed from the North Carolina State Highway Patrol," read a stipulation of fact that Assistant Attorney General Ashby Ray gave Senior Administrative Law Judge Fred Morrison.

Easley told members of his communications staff about his opinion, and they relayed that information to Beatty and Lt. Everett Clendenin, the spokesman for the Highway Patrol, the stipulation said.

Jones was fired on Sept. 8.

"It appeared to me that they were pushing a man out the door," said Capt. Stephen Briggs, of the Highway Patrol. "I've never seen an investigation turned this quickly."

Several other troopers had been accused of various offenses at the time, prompting Easley to order an outside review of the agency.

The consultant's report from that probe was issued Wednesday morning. It calls for more front-line supervision of troopers.

Jones took the stand in his defense Wednesday morning to explain what is depicted in the videos.

"I spent more time with Ricoh than I did with my own wife," he said, choking back tears.

He said he kicked the dog with the side of his foot, and the dog was never struggling or gasping. Getting K-9s to obey is critical, or they become a liability to the public, he said.

"That's what I needed to do at that moment of that day to get Ricoh to release," he said. "If it's wrong, then you need to tell the Highway Patrol it's wrong because the Highway Patrol is the ones saying we can do this stuff."

The Highway Patrol's canine-training manual doesn't ban or condone specific training methods.

Beatty said Jones' treatment of the dog was excessive and unacceptable. Some troopers said Tuesday that such treatment is widely used to train aggressive dogs, while others said they had never seen such training techniques.

"No one said they'd ever done that. No one said they'd ever seen that. No one said they'd ever been trained to do that," Ray said.

"I don't think there's any doubt that kind of behavior can't be tolerated," Beatty said Wednesday after the conclusion of the three-day hearing.

A veterinarian examined Ricoh shortly after the training exercise and found the dog wasn't injured. The Highway Patrol removed Ricoh from Jones' care, and the dog has been retired from active duty.

Morrison's ruling in the case is expected within 45 days.

Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said he has a report from the State Bureau of Investigation into Jones' actions, but he doesn't plan to decide whether there will be criminal charges until the administrative hearing is resolved.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • thinkb4uspeakplz May 5, 2008

    She has no clue how police K9's operate. Its almost too ridiculous to read. And what is being suggested is also Physical Discipline. Jones' dog never yelped in pain b/c he wasnt in any and he was never choked. Choking is when you twist the collar to cut off air. Wasted entry.

  • Adelinthe May 5, 2008

    "Forgiveness does not equate to letting someone off of the hook when they do something wrong."


    For were this so, all murderers and worse would ever have to do is say "sorry" and walk. Of course, some of them seem to almost do that now. sigh

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • Adelinthe May 5, 2008

    "That's what I needed to do at that moment of that day to get Ricoh to release," he said.


    To get a dog to release, you grab either his ear or his chin (if it's possible without getting bitten) and twist. When they yipe, they release.

    In more serious circumstances, you grab the animal's collar and twist cutting off air until they release.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • Go Georgia Tech May 5, 2008

    This story is heckuva a soap opera.. First the trainer kicks his dog, then another officer tapes it. The that officer turns it in, and then causes all the other officers to loose their dogs to.. The first officer sues to get his job back (its a at-will state BTW) then blames his trainer on how he was trained. --- the NCHP looks more foolish in every passing day.

  • thinkb4uspeakplz May 2, 2008

    The trainer of these techniques is Ken Catelloe and I too hope the process has begun for him. As far as an open mind, it is more open than you realize. I never stated whether I was a Christian or not...just wondering how the Christians were thinking if they wanted his life destroyed over this incident. And in my opinion, being held accountable does not mean ruining his entire life over this incident. To be fired and stripped of your career and pension would be a punishment if the dog was severely injured or killed by his actions. The punishment did not fit the crime. Technically people can be fired for taking a pen home that belongs to their company but that rarely happens because as Humans (evolved or God made) we tend to use more rationality that that. I think that reasoning should be used here too. Good Luck Trooper Jones, I hope justice is served and wish you and your family the very best no matter what the outcome!!!

  • slick rick da troll whisperer May 1, 2008

    "But some of these people do claim to be Christians and I ask them, where is the forgiveness? "

    Forgiveness does not equate to letting someone off of the hook when they do something wrong. Hence the fact that laws are enforced on a daily basis. You can punish someone for their acts, while forgiving them for what they have done.

    If Jones was truly trained in this manner, perhaps he is the wrong person to fire. Whoever is responsible for oversight of the training...well, like I said before, I hope due process has already begun for them. If Jones was not in fact trained in this manner, then he should go, due process or not.

  • slick rick da troll whisperer May 1, 2008

    "We know the scientific type believe there is no God so we dont expect forgiveness or compassion from those. "

    ...try to open your mind a little my friend.

  • thinkb4uspeakplz May 1, 2008

    ncbdk, is there no other option than firing. Is destroying him the only solution. I guess you support the death penalty for all crimes. This is excessive!! Especially when the man violated NO policy!! I wonder how many people here that are ready to lynch Jones claim to be Christians. We know the scientific type believe there is no God so we dont expect forgiveness or compassion from those. But some of these people do claim to be Christians and I ask them, where is the forgiveness? Especially when there has been no violation and technically he has NOTHING to ask forgiveness for as far as the HP goes! I am not saying what he did is right but if is NOT for me to say what he did was wrong. I think due process is the only thing we can have faith in especially in situations like these. If he is fired without due process then I will never trust our justice system or our government again.

  • slick rick da troll whisperer May 1, 2008

    if Jones was truly trained in this manner, there is, perhaps, a rational case that he should not be fired. However, there is no argument against firing the person that made the decision to train the k9 handlers like this in the first place. Hopefully, due process is already in place for that person to be terminated.

  • leo-nc May 1, 2008

    Betray my trust? Not hardly. Betray the public trust? He did everything in his power to protect the public. Did he make a mistake in how he trained the dog? Maybe so. However, if you're going to fire him, then fire the whole team of K9 handlers because they were all trained this way.

    Sure, halt the program. Bring in consultants. Fix it and then move on but don't take one mans job because he just happens to be the one on video. That's sad, and the public reaction to this in my opinion is sad.

    Like I said, you don't know him and yet the public bashes him like he's some kind of barbarian. You don't know this dog. If you did, you might think differently. This man has done more to earn my trust than anyone outside the patrol has, and I can tell you that he does NOT have a temper like you say he does. Of course I forgot, once again, you are all experts because you read it here on WRAL. Give me a break. I stand by what I said, I would rather have him by my side any day.