No dog shootings by Elgin police in 14 months; focus on training procedures
By Mike Danahey firstname.lastname@example.org @DanaheyECN on Twitter August 21, 2013 3:58PM
Updated: September 23, 2013 6:28AM
ELGIN — The dog days of summer hold positive news about canines and Elgin police.
After a period involving some unusually violent encounters between dogs and officers, Elgin police have not had a call involving putting down a dog for at least 14 months.
In June 2012, The Courier-News reported that Elgin police already had shot three dogs that year in three separate situations, killing two of them. From Jan. 1, 2008, through June of last year, Elgin police had shot a total of 23 dogs. All but four of the shootings resulted in the dogs dying.
Elgin Police Cmdr. Glenn Theriault noted that 16 of those shootings occurred on calls for service and the others happened while executing warrants. Theriault also pointed out that six of those dogs were put down during the same incident.
According to reports, on Feb. 21, 2010, while raiding a home across the street from Ellis Middle School that reportedly was being used as an indoor marijuana farm, a police task force found 21 pit bulls that apparently were being trained for dog fighting. Officers said that when the dogs began attacking them and each other, police shot six of them to death and trapped the other 15.
Theriault also said police records indicate that over the course of the last five years, Elgin police have gone on about 15,000 animal-related calls — averaging 3,000 a year or 250 per month.
Last fall, the department amped up its training on how to deal with situations involving animals.
“Hopefully, that’s working,” Theriault said.
The absence of canine shootings by Elgin police follows on the heels of Gov. Pat Quinn signing into law on Aug. 12 House Bill 3388 — which, according to the Illinois General Assembly website, “provides for a training program in animal fighting awareness and humane response for law enforcement officers. Provides that the purpose of the training is to equip law enforcement officers to identify animal fighting operations and respond appropriately.”
According to a press release for the amendment, the training would cover “humane responses to animal abuse, identifying animal fighting operations, and nonlethal ways to subdue canines ... . It also trains the officers in ways to subdue aggressive and abused animals in a nonlethal manner.” It goes into effect Jan. 1, 2014.
Staff at the office of state Sen. Michael Noland, D-Elgin, learned that local governments will assume the costs of the extra training, but that the cost is expected to be negligible because the required information would be added to respective training procedures.
According to how Elgin police staff are interpreting the measure, it would require the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Services Board to do the training or approve other training that meets the requirements. There is a possibility that organizations such as the National Animal Control Association or Animal Control Training Service would become state-approved training groups.
Currently, the measure does not include a requirement for all law enforcement officers to receive the training, according to Elgin police. However, local police speculate there may be a push for such training to become part of the police academy or to have a “train the trainer” version for a department-wide approach.
New K-9 patrol
In other dog-related Elgin police news, in early July, the department lost Keiser, one of the three dogs that make up its K-9 unit. The 8-year-old German shepherd, which died from cancer, was the first dog to pass away while on active duty. Elgin has been using such dogs since the late 1980s.
Theriault said that the department has decided to go ahead with replacing Keiser. The new dog will be trained, then paired with an officer for further training before going on duty. Theriault said that process should be completed by the end of the year or early next year.
He said Officer John Slocum, who was partnered with Kaiser, has voluntarily headed back to the day shift after almost 18 years working with a dog. Another officer, yet to be determined, will partner with the new dog and the two will work afternoons and nights, Theriault said.