Cop Was Justified in Shooting, Killing NJ Dog, Internal Affairs Says
VERNON TOWNSHIP — The police officer who shot and killed a pet dog after it ran out onto a residential street last month acted in a way that was justified by the "imminent threat" to the officer's safety, an internal affairs probe has determined.
The New Jersey Herald reports while the officer was found by an internal affairs investigation to have acted appropriately, Vernon police officials "regret that the use of force became necessary and will consider updating their training protocols on how to manage encounters with animals in the future."
Police released body camera footage last month from the incident, which occurred on Saturday, July 27. The officer, Patrolman Emanuel Rivera, was responding to a complaint of an aggressive dog in the Scenic Lakes community.
After Rivera speaks with two local residents, the dog is seen running onto the street and toward Rivera, who yells at the dog to back up twice. The video shows the officer's firearm in his hand, as he yells "back" twice before the video, as released, cuts out.
According to the same NJ Herald report, police chief Daniel Young said the Vernon Police department has since reviewed and updated its training and call-out procedures, "so there is an automatic dual response by both the police and the on-call animal control officer during hours in which Animal Control is closed for these types of incidents."
The owner of the lab-greyhound mix previously told New Jersey 101.5 the dog had no history of aggression.
Jennifer Hearon said her family adopted "Hiro" three years ago. She said given the 89 degree heat on the day of the incident, the dog might have been drooling, but the 60-pound dog was up to date on all his vaccinations, including rabies.
The person who called in the complaint said that a dog was running loose in the neighborhood and had come close to him, while growling, police said.
According to police, after the responding officer spoke with the neighbors, the dog ran up to him and began to aggressively charge toward him, without listening to commands to stop. The officer then drew his gun and shot the dog, killing it, police said.
On the video, seen below, the gun is first seen about two or three seconds after the dog is first heard barking, but before the officer issues it repeated commands of "back up" and "back."
Among resources for police, the National Sheriffs' Association offers a Law Enforcement Dog Encounters Training (LEDET) program.
A summary of the training notes "These encounters are costly to law enforcement agencies, both in terms of their finances as well as their reputation."