The video “can be very alarming to a lay person” — but apparently the officer wasn’t doing anything wrong.
A distressing video of a police officer pinning a dog to the ground and punching it in the face was all just part of its training, a police captain has claimed.
The clip was secretly recorded by floor installer Roberto Palomino, who had heard a dog yelping in distress after arriving at his company warehouse in Vacaville on Monday afternoon.
Across the yard he spotted a Vacaville PD officer straddling his K-9 partner and raining blows into the animal’s head.
“I started hearing a dog crying, kind of like in pain,” Palomino told KTVU. “That’s when I saw the officer constantly beating the dog, over and over. I saw at least 10 punches to the dog.”
“I was wondering myself, what the dog could have done to deserve that kind of punishment?”
He took out his phone, but said he quickly stopped when he noticed the officer was checking for witnesses.
A @VacavillePolice officer training to be a K-9 handler is seen on this video hitting his dog. Man who took video says officer punched dog as many as 10X before the recording. Dept says officer was “correcting” the dog after it lunged & almost bit him. 5:10, 6, 7:40 p.m. @KTVU pic.twitter.com/gVMoZAjOZK
— Henry K. Lee (@henrykleeKTVU) December 29, 2020
“As soon as he saw me, he stopped,” he said, adding there was no way he was going to confront the officer: “I was afraid (for) my life.”
But according to Vacaville Police Captain Matt Lydon, the unnamed officer was merely training the dog, who had misbehaved.
He told the broadcaster that the officer is a five-year veteran, but had only recently joined the K-9 department; both he and his dog — a shepherd-Belgian Malinois mix — were undergoing a training exercise in which the dog had found “drugs”, and was supposed to give up the toy in return for a reward — but he would not.
Lydon said that when the officer took the toy back, “This angered the dog, and the dog reacted to this. The dog lunged at the handler and attempted to bite the handler.”
He said the officer’s reaction was to correct the dog, as its response was not acceptable. He said the handler placed the dog in a position of dominance — which is common in police dog training — to teach him “who’s in charge.”
“It’s important in K-9 training that the handler take swift action to correct the dog’s behavior,” he said.
Lydon accepted that the video “can be very alarming to a lay person”.
Palomino, who told ABC7 the officer was “straight up beating the dog on the face”, isn’t so sure.
“I hope he doesn’t get to treat the dog like that anymore. I hope he doesn’t get to treat people like that either,” he said.
The video only shows one punch; Lydon said the department had been unaware of the nine other alleged punches, and said officials will investigate to see if his actions were appropriate.