A North Carolina police department is investigating after footage emerged that appeared to show an officer lifting a dog by its collar before reportedly striking the animal during a training exercise.
Salisbury Police Department (SPD) said the officer had been moved off dog-handling duties while a probe is launched into the incident, which reportedly involved a four-year-old canine named Zuul.
Video shared with WSOC TV Channel 9 showed the dog jumping out of a police car and running towards the officer, who shouts “stay.”
In the video, a handler puts a leash on the dog and begins to lift him up. At this point the channel stops airing the video due to the apparently distressing nature of the footage.
WSOC reported that the officer, whose name was not immediately released, then begins swinging the animal behind his back and walks towards the police SUV, where he struggles to get the animal into the back of a vehicle and appears to strike it.
Police said the dog was not harmed and is healthy and being well-cared-for.
In a statement, Salisbury Police said the health and wellbeing of their officers and working dogs was its “top priority.”
“The Salisbury Police Department is aware of the video that has been provided to the media depicting a Salisbury officer during canine training but cannot comment in detail because it is an ongoing personnel matter,” it added.
“In accordance with policy, SPD’s review of and response to this matter is and will continue to be thorough and fair so as to provide due process to everyone involved.
“SPD can confirm that, as a matter of course, the officer has been administratively separated from the canine while SPD conducts its review.”
File photo of a police dog standing with its handler. The dog in the Salisbury, North Carolina incident is said to be healthy and unharmed.Friedemann Vogel/Getty Images
The department said an outside agency would lead the inquiry to “ensure integrity of the investigation”.
The agency will review the incident with experts in handling canines, including former handlers with other police departments, an owner of a police canine training firm, and internal K9 supervisory staff.
The statement said: “While the matter is not complete, it has been determined no Taser was used on the dog at any point by anyone. Any allegation that this occurred is false.
“It is important to understand that a police canine is trained to use force against criminal suspects and a handler must ensure they have complete control over the dog at all times so that any use of the canine in the field is appropriate and lawful.
“When a canine is noncompliant with the handler’s commands, the handler is trained to correct the dog. Canine training tactics and corrective measures can sometimes be alarming out of context.
“SPD cannot and will not comment about whether the training tactics used in the video were appropriate, because that is still being reviewed.
“As part of this review we are ensuring our policy, procedures, and training we provide our handlers is appropriate. Again, SPD’s top priority is the health, safety, and well-being of its human and canine officers.
“The canine involved in this matter is safe, has suffered no effects from this incident, and the officer in this matter will be treated fairly in accordance with SPD policy.”
Newsweek contacted the department for further comment.
Last year a separate investigation was launched after footage emerged of a California officer appearing to punch a trainee police dog in the face.