St. Louis County Bars Dogs For Crime Control; Chief Disputes DOJ Report


St. Louis County’s police board forbid use of police dogs for crowd control, after a post-Ferguson federal report strongly criticized the practice, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Police Chief Jon Belmar said that the department did not use dogs that way in Ferguson, despite the U.S. Justice Department's “strong implication that we did.” He warned police commissioners that a DOJ analysis of the department's patterns and practices due out this month may not be fully accurate. Belmar said a draft he reviewed contained “several portions that the police department disagreed with and strongly disagreed with.” He did not specify them but said the Justice Department promised “amendments.”

Belmar said Ron Davis, the Justice Department's director of Community Oriented Policing Services, will brief the command staff Sept. 29 before releasing the report in a press conference. The report was prepared under contract by the Police Foundation, a nonprofit organization. Unlike an earlier, highly critical review of the Ferguson Police Department, the St. Louis County police report does not automatically carry a threat of a lawsuit or intervention of a federal monitor if recommendations are not enacted. A civil rights suit still could follow. The dog issue came up in a recent after-action review that critiqued the response of county and city police, Ferguson police and the Missouri Highway Patrol in the 17 days on unrest between Brown's shooting and funeral. That report noted that St. Louis County and Ferguson police used dogs to protect the shooting scene as a crowd gathered. It concluded that the tactic was consistent with each agency's policy but “inconsistent with widely accepted policing practices and, in fact, exacerbated tensions by unnecessarily inciting fear and anger among amassing crowds.”

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