UPDATED 3/31 at 10:20 p.m. ET: The North Carolina officer who was filmed body-slamming a K-9 has formally resigned.
The Salisbury Police Department announced the decision Wednesday, stating James Hampton chose to step down from his position after the department recommended his termination. He was ultimately permitted to resign after a due process hearing.
“The Police Department’s review determined that Officer Hampton had acted in a manner entirely inconsistent with his K-9 training and had violated Police Department policy,” the SPD wrote in a press release. “… The Police Department did not incentivize or otherwise request Officer Hampton’s resignation, which he tendered as a matter of right. While we understand the calls for the officer’s immediate termination, city employees are afforded due process which ensures fairness for everyone involved and which can take time.
“The Salisbury Police Department will continue to review and make the necessary changes to our K-9 training operations, policies and procedures that align with industry best practices.
See original story below.
A North Carolina police department is facing backlash over a disturbing video taken during a K-9 training session.
The footage, which was sent to FOX 46 by an anonymous source, shows an unidentified Salisbury officer shouting “Stay!” at the K-9 before taking questionable actions. We see the man approach the dog and then lifting it up off the ground by a leash. The officer then swings the dog over his shoulder before appearing to slam it against a vehicle. The K-9 is then shoved into the car before the officer seemingly strikes it.
“We’re good, no witnesses,” an onlooker can be heard saying in the video.
“Is your camera on?” another person asks.
Salisbury Police Chief Jerry Stokes addressed the incident during a Tuesday press conference, confirming the department is investigating the matter. Stokes declined to name the involved officer or provide details on when and where the training took place. He did, however, reassure the public that the K-9—later identified as “Zuul”—was in good health.
“SPD can confirm that as a matter of course, the officer has been administratively separated from the K-9 while SPD conducts its review,” Stokes said. “The canine was not harmed and is healthy and being well-cared for.”
The chief claimed an outside agency was leading the investigation, which would include consultations with a canine training firm as well as former dog handlers at other police departments. Stokes went on to ask the public to wait for the inquiry to conclude before making judgement.
“When a canine is noncompliant with the handler’s commands, the handler is trained to correct the dog,” Stokes said. “Canine training tactics and corrective measures can sometimes be alarming when provided out of context. SPD cannot and will not comment about whether the training tactics used in the video were appropriate, because that is still being reviewed.”
The the People of the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has since called for the involved officer to face criminal repercussions and be barred from interacting with the force’s K-9s.
“There is no scenario in which this handler’s behavior could be considered acceptable by any standard, and we believe this is far more than an internal disciplinary matter. It is criminal conduct,” PETA said in a letter Wednesday. “Furthermore, witnesses who took no action and in fact engaged in a cover-up of this incident must also be investigated for collusion, aiding, and abetting. They also bear some responsibility for this dog’s suffering.”