SALISBURY, N.C. — More than 75,000 people have signed a petition to have the badge taken away from a K9 police officer who was involved in a training incident with a canine.
The internal investigation is reviewing actions taken by one of their officers against the animal, according to Salisbury Police Chief Jerry Stokes. He did not comment on what the investigation entails but confirmed the incident was captured on video.
Stokes cited the incident as an "on-going personnel matter," but did confirm the officer in question has been separated from the K9 while they conduct their review.
The K9 unit, named Zuul, was not harmed, according to Stokes. The name of the officer was not publicly released.
Stokes said an outside agency has been charged with leading the inquiry. Stokes confirmed that the agency is interviewing and reviewing the matter.
The petition goes on to read:
"It is very clear by the conversation heard in the background that there are other members of the police department who are in on the abuse. This is not an isolated incident given how nonchalant the bystanders are and how fast the officer was to abuse Zuul."
Local PETA members joined other Salisbury residents for a virtual Salisbury City Council meeting on Tuesday to "demand answers from elected officials."
“If this wasn’t a police officer, that person caught on video would be charged with cruelty to animals,” said Rachel Bellis, manager of local affairs in the cruelty investigations department at PETA. “There’s no scenario where hitting, slamming, and choking a dog is called for.”
Bellis said she does not believe there is any excuse for the actions the video appears to show.
“It’s not being taken out of context,” Bellis said. “If this is sort of par for the course for the Salisbury Police Department’s K9 unit, then maybe they shouldn’t even have this K9 unit.”
Salisbury Mayor Karen Alexander released a statement ahead of Tuesday’s city council meeting saying:
"We fully understand the community’s concern for the health and well-being of K-9 Officer Zuul following the airing of a recent training video. We are glad to see so many folks who have expressed their support and concern for Zuul through this petition. Mine and our City Council’s first concern was for the health and safety of Zuul. As we’ve said previously, we take very seriously any situation that would jeopardize the lives of any of our officers, human and canine. Salisbury Police Administration removed Zuul from the handler’s care as soon as this incident came to their attention. In this instance, regarding the status of the officer in question, we are governed by a disciplinary process that must take its course. Our review and that of a third party investigation will continue to be thorough and fair so as to provide due process to everyone involved, in accordance with SPD policy and North Carolina Personnel Records Laws."