Orange County Sheriff’s Department launches probe after police dog attacks county employee
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department has launched an internal affairs investigation into the actions of a canine handler after a police dog attacked a county employee during a training exercise last week, authorities said Wednesday.
The man, a 20-year county worker, was preparing to leave for the day between 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. Aug. 29 when the dog entered his office and bit his arm, according to county officials and a written report of the incident.
The dog was inside a public works building, at 1102 Fruit St. in Santa Ana, as part of a training exercise. The attack lasted “around a minute,” until the dog’s trainer stopped the animal, the report said.
“He was screaming, and that’s how the handler found him,” said Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer, who found out about the incident when he saw the man over the weekend. “He told me there was blood everywhere. He was in a lot of pain.”
The man was taken to a hospital, where he was treated for puncture wounds and released a few hours later, according to the report.
The employee, whose name has not been released, is a supervising fleet technician in a department that handles maintenance and repairs for county-owned vehicles and equipment.
The man’s long-term prognosis is not clear, but he is trying to avoid bacterial infections that can result from animal bites, and he may have to undergo plastic surgery to his arm, Spitzer said.
The Sheriff’s Department has not identified the dog in the attack. The majority of the agency’s patrol canines are Belgian Malinois.
The dog is expected to remain part of the agency’s K-9 unit. In response to the incident, the department suspended all police dog training at county buildings that are not solely occupied by department personnel, Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Carrie Braun said.
In addition to the Sheriff’s Department investigation, Spitzer on Wednesday said he wants the Orange County Board of Supervisors to discuss the issue during its meeting next week. Specifically, Spitzer said he’ll suggest that the county’s Office of Independent Review dig into policies and procedures for Sheriff’s Department training exercises in county buildings.
Spitzer contends that law enforcement should have posted a notice to let employees know about the training activity and walked through the building to make sure no one was inside. It does not appear that was done, he said.
“Dogs are a great instrument for law enforcement, but they’re also a weapon. They don’t know the difference between a barricaded suspect and a county employee,” he said. “I’m appalled by this whole thing.”
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