Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Australia: ACT police officer removed from frontline duties after capsicum-spraying dog

An ACT police officer who fired capsicum spray at a tethered dog during a raid will ride a desk until an investigation into the incident is complete.

Canberra's top cop said the move had been "operationally necessary" but did not presume guilt.

Disturbing CCTV footage which surfaced last week showed a plain-clothes Australian Federal Police officer spraying a chained dog during a search of an unoccupied Griffith house in May.

The dog's owner, Justen Storay, has lodged an official complaint with the AFP.

Mr Storay, who wasn't home at the time of the raid, said his two-year-old dog, Laps, didn't have any physical side affects from the attack. But the dog had "cowered", been "standoffish", and seemed "really shocked" after the incident, he said.

The male officer is now the subject of an internal investigation by AFP Professional Standards.

ACT Chief Police Officer Rudi Lammers said a decision to remove the officer from frontline duty, which meant he would not be able to use capsicum spray, was "a reasonable response" to the incident.

"It doesn't presume guilt, and nor does it presume the conclusions of the investigation, but it was just something we thought was operationally necessary," he said.

"The investigation is being expedited so we're going to do it as quickly as we possibly can and then work through what we're going to do after the findings of that investigation are known," Chief Police Officer Lammers said.

The man will work in a different ACT Policing department until the investigation is completed.

Mr Storay's lawyer, Peter Woodhouse, welcomed the news but said the officer should have been stood down, pending the investigation, as soon as the complaint was lodged.

"It has taken the considerable media coverage and public outcry to shame the AFP into acting," he said.

Mr Woodhouse said he hoped the widespread public outcry over the incident prompted the AFP to act "swiftly and forcefully".

"The people have spoken – they won’t tolerate this type of jack-booted, bully-boy behaviour from their police officers who are, after all, public servants."

Chief Police Officer Lammers said it was "far too early to tell" whether criminal charges would be laid against the officer.

"I wouldn't want to second guess anything that's recommended after the investigation's complete," he said.

He said police had not reviewed procedures, or raised the matter of professional standards with officers following the incident.

"We already have very sound guidelines in place for the way in which our officers should behave. Those guidelines are well-known to all officers in the police force.

"We'll just see what the end of the investigation brings, whether there is a need to do anything with our practices and procedures we won't really know that until after the investigation."

Chief Police Officer Lammers said any type of conduct that attracted adverse community attention was disappointing.

Footage of the incident shows Laps - a bull mastiff cross - tethered to a chain in the backyard. A police officer can be seen barking at the dog.

The dog charges but is stopped well short of the man by its chain. The officer then shoots a burst of oleoresin capsicum spray directly at the stationary animal and it quickly retreats out of sight.

Minutes later, three AFP officers can be seen apparently laughing, with one recording on his mobile phone. The officer who used the spray later throws a stick towards the animal and leaves.

The police officer's actions were met with backlash from animal rights groups and on social media.

RSPCA ACT chief executive Tammy Ven Dange said last week the behaviour was "inexcusable" and it didn't look like the police officer had acted appropriately.

Chief Police Officer Lammers said the AFP did not condone animal cruelty in any form.

Original report here




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