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July 3, 2013

Mayor calls for report on Fiesta K9 use

The mayor has requested that the city’s chief of police write a formal report on the city’s police dog use, after the actions of Essex Sheriff’s Deputy K9 units outside the St. Peter’s Club late Saturday night into early morning Sunday sparked heated debate about the use of police dogs in the city for crowd control.

In an emailed memorandum sent to a group including city councilors and the city’s legal counsel Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Carolyn Kirk said Police Chief Leonard Campanello was “wrapping up” a preliminary evaluation.

“Be assured that the chief and city administration were in close contact throughout Fiesta,” Kirk said. “I received daily briefings, and we first spoke about Sat. p.m./Sunday a.m. public safety concerns on Sunday morning. He initiated his evaluation immediately, and is preparing a written report in response to my formal request.”

Posted videos and first-person accounts have led residents to question why police brought dogs out at Fiesta this year, while others said the dogs acted as a valuable and useful tool.

According to several sources, the incident occurred as police tried to clear the St. Peter’s Club in the early-morning hours on Sunday, and patrons exiting the club and others congregating in Rogers Street were confronted with police and Sheriff’s Department personnel with muzzled but barking and what many said were intimidating dogs.

A Townsend woman filed a formal complaint against the K9 Unit about 1:13 a.m. Sunday, just minutes after the incident in question. Police had filed a use of force report by 2 a.m. regarding her complaint. Both reports remained unavailable Tuesday, due to the ongoing investigation.

Gloucester had bolstered its force with outside support from the Essex Sheriff’s Department and the Massachusetts Police, after Police Chief Campanello vowed a stepped up vigilance for his first Fiesta as chief. Campanello declined to comment Tuesday, but wrote in a press release distributed Monday that police were evaluating their safety plan’s implementation of the dogs.

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