Local News

Highway Patrol appeals decision to reinstate ex-K-9 trooper

Posted January 6, 2010

— North Carolina Highway Patrol leaders headed to Wake County Superior Court Wednesday to appeal a decision that they must rehire a former trooper who was accused of mistreating his K-9 partner.

The state agency fired Charles Jones in September 2007 after another trooper turned over two 15-second video clips of Jones suspending his dog, Ricoh, a Belgian Mallinois, from a railing and kicking him repeatedly to force him to release a chew toy.

Highway Patrol fighting order to reinstate trooper Highway Patrol fighting order to reinstate trooper

Jones maintained the treatment was a training technique, but patrol leaders said Jones, who coordinated training for the force's K-9 unit, crossed the line from training to abuse and acted in a way inconsistent with his own training.

In October 2008, the State Personnel Commission ordered the Highway Patrol to reinstate Jones, finding that it did not have "just cause to dismiss for unacceptable personal conduct.” It did find, however, "sufficient cause for discipline for unsatisfactory job performance.”

The patrol is asking Judge Jim Hardin to put aside the commission's decision.

Tamara Zmuda, an attorney for the state, said Wednesday that Jones was terminated for violating the patrol's "unbecoming conduct" policies, which brought the patrol into disregard.

"Charles Jones' actions not only brought himself into disrepute, it brought the entire K-9 unit into disrepute," Zmuda said. "No reasonable person would do what he did that day."

Several dog handlers had previously testified they were never trained in the manner that Jones said he used to train Ricoh and that they would not have handled dogs that way.

"There is nothing to support that this was accepted behavior," Zmuda said.

Jack O'Hale, Jones' attorney, argued that 14 handlers said there was nothing objectionable in the video and that Jones kicked the dog the same way someone would "kick a child in the butt."

"Ricoh's tail is wagging. He's following Mr. Jones' head," O'Hale said of the video. "Ricoh wasn't injured."

Jones, now an Apex police officer, testified in April 2008 that Ricoh refused to release the toy, so he tied his leash to the top rail of a deck, hung the dog with its back paws on the ground, and began kicking.

Jones said it was what he was trained to do. Highway Patrol manuals didn't specify how to train a dog, and patrol officials said Jones' kicks were unacceptable.

"We're not dealing with household pets," O'Hale argued. "These are weapons. We've got to train accordingly."

Ricoh, now retired, was the "toughest nut on the Highway Patrol K-9 unit" and was called a "maniac on a leash," O'Hale said.

"You must rule with an iron fist," he added, cited the patrol's training manual.

Patrol leaders said they initially planned to discipline Jones but decided to fire him when then-Gov. Mike Easley's office intervened.

O'Hale said Wednesday that pressure was put on the Highway Patrol to be "politically correct." At the time, several other troopers had been in the local news for allegations of misconduct or inappropriate behavior, and the dog-fighting case involving NFL athlete Michael Vick was making national news.

"This case was the perfect storm for the Highway Patrol and Charles Jones," O'Hale said.

The allegations against Jones led the Highway Patrol to disband its K-9 program in December 2008. In June, the patrol implemented a new program with new dogs and handlers.

Less-aggressive Labrador retrievers are now used instead of shepherd breeds, because they are better at detecting drugs, which is the dogs' primary duty. The shepherd breeds used to be used for pursuits and protection but are no longer needed.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • chfdcpt Jan 8, 2010

    Nope. Ever hear of the PBA?

    Yes, and I was a member many years ago when I was an officer. I was referring to state employees in general. Not all officers have a PBA chapter or FOP chapter.

    And not all state/municipal/county employees have any organization that will provide them with legal counsel at no cost.

  • catlady Jan 8, 2010

    Face it people----there is no voice for the poor animals-just more abuse on the way. Just wish I could be there to witness a Judge, lawyer, law enforcement officer, or general citizen get saved by a canine or other animal from a fire, intruder, etc. Also guiding eyes for the blind, canine help for the person with seizure disorders- maybe these "law makers" will need this kind of help one day. Where is this going, anyway- will any of these "humans" involved actually see these comments? Also, Animal Control does answer calls to cruelty cases- it is the LAW that keeps them from being able to take action- I know first hand- if the LAW says they can be chained, kept in small living quarters, need tapes to prove beatings, etc, then their hands are tied. All I can say is, the wrong-doer will get their day- whether it be on earth or hereafter.

  • leo-nc Jan 7, 2010

    An administrative law judge also agreed with the Trooper.

  • goa4me Jan 7, 2010

    "Ya'll may not like it but the courts decided with the Trooper, and they got to see all the evidence." G-man

    If you read the article you'd see that "The patrol is asking Judge Jim Hardin to put aside the commission's decision."

    It was not the court system that sided with the animal beater, it was the State Personnel Commission. And I don't think he should be given the privilege to work for the SHP. Too bad that Apex let him join their force. :\

  • leo-nc Jan 7, 2010

    "whereas the wrongly fired employee has to pay for his attorney."---

    Nope. Ever hear of the PBA?

  • leo-nc Jan 7, 2010

    "To "wildcat" and others that speak out for the guy- horse racing is abuse in my eyes, as is dog racing; but this guy is dangerous. Quote from St. Francis of Assissi: "If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have MEN WHO WILL DEAL LIKEWISE WITH THEIR FELLOW MEN". I would rather have dogs for friends than you guys"---

    You don't know anything about him but nice try.

  • TwinsMommy Jan 7, 2010

    There is no excuse for kicking an animal while in training. Even IF that was the way you are trained to do it (as he stated). You know the difference between right and wrong. As a Police Officer he is held to a higher standard. He knew what he was doing was wrong and did it anyway. If he does get his job back it should be a desk job.

  • chfdcpt Jan 7, 2010

    Some thoughts that are rarely mentioned about this case.
    How many of you would fight if you were ilegally fired from your job? Or would you just cower and let it go? It was mentioned that he was going to be disciplined by the HP for the actions. The main issue here is that he was fired ilegally under pressure from the governor's office.

    Judges have already ruled in his favor, and that the HP was in the wrong. However, a state agency will keep fighting it because they have the resources of the AG's office, whereas the wrongly fired employee has to pay for his attorney.

    You may also want to look at the Keith Edwards v. UNC case, the same situation happened.

  • oldag84 Jan 7, 2010

    How anybody can defend kicking a dog, even a working dog, is beyond me. It shows a complete lack of sense and basic morality. Well, I suppose if you are a police officer, it's OK, but anyone else should be arrested.

  • TimInNC Jan 6, 2010

    dixiechick1352, I do understand training dogs. I even have a good understanding about how to train working dogs. This animal was suspended by his neck and kicked repeatedly. That isn't training. That's abuse.