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State dissolves Highway Patrol K-9 unit

Posted December 8, 2008
Updated December 19, 2008

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— State officials announced Monday that they have dissolved the Highway Patrol's 18-year-old K-9 program and plan to rebuild the unit with new policies and new officers.

The move comes three months after the Highway Patrol fired Trooper Charles Jones for video of him kicking his K-9 partner, Ricoh, during training. The Highway Patrol gave Ricoh early retirement and has fought Jones' efforts to get his job back.

But during an administrative hearing, it became clear that Jones' actions were largely consistent with the force's training methods, prompting Bryan Beatty, secretary of Crime Control and Public Safety, to suspend the program.

"There was no oversight. We did not know some of the things that were taking place until the hearing," Capt. Everett Clendenin, a spokesman for the Highway Patrol, said.

Beatty ordered a review of the patrol's policies, procedures and protocols for the K-9 unit to identify areas that needed improvement and study other states' K-9 units. At the end of the review, Beatty decided it would be best to start over from scratch.

"We're completely disbanding the K-9 unit as it exists or used to exist," Clendenin said.

When it is launched – by spring 2009, officials expect – the revamped K-9 unit will have all new faces, both human and canine.

Sgt. Charles Joyner will be the unit's supervisor, and less-aggressive Labrador retrievers will replace the high-strung Belgian Mallinois. The old K-9 troopers will be moved to new assignments, and new ones hired.

"Those K-9 handlers are going to be placed back in the field," Clendenin said. "Then we’re going to have an application process for other troopers who have never been trained by the Highway Patrol in aggressive K-9s.”

The K-9s will stay with their handlers until the force can place them with other agencies.

Labrador retrievers' strength – a nonagressive personality and talent for sniffing out drugs – will be keys to new K-9 unit's focus. The dogs will not be trained to attack but heavily tutored in narcotics detection.

The patrol plans to buy six Labradors at the cost of between $3,000 and $6,000 each. Money from drug seizures and other property forfeitures will fund the purchases.

The force's new training policy will specifically prohibit mistreatment of dogs.

Joyner has successfully completed the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Instructor K-9 Training Class and will lead an effort to certify the new handlers according to the border services' training curriculum.

Experts praised the patrol's decision to dissolve and restructure their K-9 unit.

"There's lots of ways to have a successful training program," said Tracy Bowling, who has trained K-9s for the Wake County Sheriff's Office for 40 years.

Bowling said the videos of Jones' treatment of Ricoh shocked him and raised "lots of questions as to why it was occurring and what the circumstances were."

Clendenin said the Highway Patrol was making tough but necessary changes after the exposure of animal abuse in the K-9 program.

"It did happen," he said. "It's sad that it happened, but it gave us an opportunity to review where we were and to look at where we should be, by measuring what we were doing against other states and other federal agencies.

"And we saw that we had some catching up to, quite frankly."

Other patrol officials expressed optimism that their new K-9 unit go a long ways to closing that gap.

“I’m confident that once these changes are implemented, we will have one of the best canine programs in the nation,” the patrol's commander, Col. Walter Wilson Jr., said.


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  • npggirl Dec 10, 2008

    please read my argument.
    I never said they did not need well trained dogs.
    I never said they did not need dogs at all.
    I do not care what breed of dogs they train, or use, as long as they do not ABUSE the animals...

  • ukidding Dec 9, 2008

    hey tiredofit and ddddsmith:

    Welcome back to the district; now check 10-8 and take some calls and quit crying!

  • ddddddsmith Dec 9, 2008

    Can't say I think the K-9 program needs a whole new set of fresh faces but I would concur 110% if Patrol Management and PIO had a whole new set of fresh faces...the sooner the better.

  • ddddddsmith Dec 9, 2008

    So what about Joyner's lab business...will he be able to sell his own to the patrol or will he run it through his friends' business? Conflict of interest??? So how can he have been a handler with DMV for many years and never have been trained in agression? How can someone trained in agression lead the way with this new movement?
    Like tiredofit2009 mentioned...who does interdiction from now until June...

  • stupiditydeservesnosympathy Dec 9, 2008


    You have no idea what leos go through in a day. They need a Well trained dog.
    Labs IMHO are not the dog they should use. From what I have seen in the dog park they tend to start fights before the more so called "agressive Breeds" i.e. pit bulls.
    SHP needs to revamp the program but keep the dogs bought will taxpayers hard earned money. The governemntal waste needs to stop.

  • WildBullMoose Dec 9, 2008

    What will they do with the existing K9 officers? I would love to adopt one.

  • tiredofit2009 Dec 9, 2008

    68 POLARA - You are exactly right. but rest assured when it does, Beatty and Wilson will have Clendenin blame it on someone else. However, as long as it is not their friend or their brother they won't care.

  • tiredofit2009 Dec 9, 2008

    The Patrol, especially the current Commander, touts itself as being built on honor, pride, integrity, blah, blah, blah - however, central to them all is telling the truth and being honest.....
    So the interdiction/k-9 troopers told the truth under oath (more than anyone can say for Beatty and Castelloe) and now they are being punished- Working interdiction and/or K-9's is not something you learn in BLET and it's not just any law enforcement officer can do. These guys have a passion and special skill to work these assignments. Tremendous amounts of training and costs are invested in these troopers and now because they told the TRUTH they are discarded. So in light of today's budget crisis, SHP will discard the dogs and all of the training invested in the troopers and start from scratch????? So just who will protect the citizens while new troopers are trained....NEWSFLASH - DRUG DEALERS - FEEL FREE TO TRANSPORT YOUR DRUGS THROUGH OUR FINE STATE WHILE WE LEARN HOW TO SPOT AND STOP YOU.

  • Justin T. Dec 9, 2008

    Hang on to the German Shepherds (and other aggressive breeds). Once the "kinder, gentler" dogs can't get the job done, we'll need them back.

    As a lay person it is pretty easy to humanize dogs and expect them to be treated with a soft touch. In the real world of "work dogs"... I've heard that you have to get the dog's attention, sometimes harshly, to teach it to respond instantly.

    If you have a dog that is strong willed... you may have to jerk a knot in it to save its life down the road. Quick, accurate behavior may also save a citizen or fellow officer, too.

    I think that unless you are in the field busting bad guys you may want to keep an open mind. The officers were doing what they were told.

    Finally, these dogs are supposed to attack people. Sorry if that offends the mild-mannered... but you would likely want to get physical with a dog that has to fight and subdue perps.

    The bad guys will do a lot more than kick a K9 cop in the real world.

  • npggirl Dec 9, 2008

    Non common sense man...
    See your own profile for a reply from me, on that last, totally intellectual post...
    Thank you~