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July 6, 2013

Report defends K9 use

But chief also seeks review of sheriff'ls department tactics

A police review and report have found no law enforcement wrongdoing as of yet in the weekend arrests outside of the St. Peter’s Club that incited a crowd and later angered residents who watched a video of the K9-assisted arrests online.

In a “preliminary response” to Mayor Carolyn Kirk’s request for a review of police actions outside of the club, Police Chief Leonard Campanello emphasized that Sgt. William Leanos’ decision to call in the Essex County Sheriff’s K9 unit for back up was warranted and appropriate as a crowd filled Rogers Street after Saturday’s closure at St., Peter’s Fiesta.

But the chief also said that the Essex County Sherrif’s Department K9 officers’ actions warrant further review.

“The act of the arrest of one individual produced what, on the surface and out of context, appears to be a disturbing video of a K9 handler forcibly taking the arrestee (peach colored shirt) to the ground as the individual is walking away from officers,” Campanello wrote. “As far as the request to deploy K9s and their handlers, I believe that the request was appropriate both in regards to timing and positioning.”

Many residents have continued to question why the department utilized the K9s for crowd control at all, when dogs had sat out any active Fiesta policing in the past, but Campanello stood by his department’s decision to set up a perimeter with the dogs.

The Gloucester Police Department in conjunction with the Sheriffs Department plans to evaluate the use of K9s in crowd situations and their effectiveness, an evaluation that the chief will incorporate in his overall Fiesta After-Action Report due in late August.

Mayor Carolyn Kirk had requested a special report on the implementation of K9 units after receiving multiple calls from concerned residents. The internal investigation, which resulted in no action against Gloucester police officers, also came after a Townsend woman filed a formal complaint questioning the use of K9 units and other police tactics just after 1 a.m. Sunday.

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