PHOENIX – A suburban Phoenix police officer is being investigated after a video posted online purportedly shows him whipping and kicking a police dog.
Peoria police spokeswoman Isabel Wolfe said Wednesday that an investigation is underway but the K-9 in the video was in good condition following an examination by a veterinarian.
The video taken from across a residential street shows the dog, its handler and three other officers outside a home. As the dog sits outside the front door, the handler snaps its leash and then appears to whip the animal with it. The handler then briefly lifts his right leg. The contact between the officer and the dog is unclear, but a woman off camera can be heard gasping and saying, "He's kicking that dog."
The video on YouTube has been viewed about 18,000 times since it was posted Sunday. Peoria police have received backlash on social media, with commenters accusing the officer of animal abuse.
Ralph Pendergast, a former president of the Arizona Law Enforcement Canine Association, said he watched the video and did not see anything out of the ordinary. It was too obscure to make out what happened, he added.
"Really all I heard was the lady that was taking a photograph was commenting on what she was seeing," said Pendergast, who said he met the Peoria K-9 handler a few times at training sessions. "She may have thought that was stomping but he was probably — and again, I didn't see it on the video — probably correcting the dog."
According to police, the incident occurred Saturday while officers were looking for two robbery suspects. The 3-year-old Belgian Malinois was called in to assist.
"Immediately following this incident, this canine was in good health and showed no signs of injury or distress," according to a statement issued by police.
Police were not identifying the officer involved because of the investigation but said he is a 10-year veteran who has been a K-9 handler for five years and is still on active duty.
Pendergast said the public needs to keep in mind that K-9s aren't pets.
"There's a great relationship with every K-9 handler and their partner," Pendergast said. "There has to be. But occasionally, if a dog is not performing how it was trained, there has to be a correction."