HomeCrimeBREAKING: GPD K-9 handlers moving to patrol while the department evaluates how the dogs will be deployed
BREAKING: GPD K-9 handlers moving to patrol while the department evaluates how the dogs will be deployed
January 5, 2023
BY JENNIFER CABRERA
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – As of midnight on January 9, Gainesville Police Department’s (GPD) K-9 handlers will be reassigned to patrol shifts; it is unclear whether the dogs will be available for deployment.
Following the resignation of Charles Owens as supervisor of the K-9 unit, GPD no longer has a K-9 supervisor who is certified as a trainer, and the K-9 handlers will be leaving their dogs at home and working regular patrol shifts. GPD has two other sworn officers who are at least partially qualified to be K-9 supervisors, but they have not agreed to take the position.
The change has also been explained as a partial solution to GPD’s staffing shortages; the department currently has 44 sworn officer vacancies.
The K-9 unit has been under scrutiny since Terrell Bradley lost an eye during a K-9 apprehension last July. Former K-9 handler Edward Ratliff also filed a lawsuit against the City of Gainesville in December 2021 that alleged racism and discrimination in the unit. The lawsuit was moved to federal court in August 2022, and a mediation report is due January 30.
The Gainesville City Commission held a Special Meeting on November 16 to discuss the use of K-9 teams at GPD. After a meeting that lasted nearly five hours, the commission postponed a decision and requested additional information from staff and a cultural audit of the K-9 unit “to see where the issues are and bring back recommendations.”
The handlers will report to new Patrol Support Lieutenant, Mike West. Lieutenant West has 23 years of experience with the Gainesville Police Department and currently serves as the Special Weapons and Tactics Commander. Lieutenant West and Patrol Support Commander Captain Anthony Ferrara are in the process of identifying a K-9 Unit Sergeant to replace Owens.
Chief Lonnie Scott sent Alachua Chronicle a written statement that said he and the command staff are reviewing current GPD policy and procedures and evaluating how the K-9s will be deployed until new leadership has been identified and trained.
Scott wrote, “The Gainesville Police Department’s K-9 Unit will remain a vital component of the overall deployment to serve the City of Gainesville. Each handler will continue their roles and responsibilities in uniformed patrol with adjustments in the manner in which the K-9s are utilized until the new supervisor is named. The Department will follow both CALEA (Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies) and federal guidelines in maintaining the certifications of each team.”
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