Vacaville Police Department under scrutiny over video of officer punching K-9

Local News

VACAVILLE, Calif. (KTXL) – A bystander-shot video from last December, captured during training for Vacaville police dog handlers and their K-9s, shows an officer straddling his dog as he punches it.

“Our absolute commitment is to never have an incident like this happen again,” said Ian Schmutzler, the acting chief of Vacaville Police Department.

Wednesday night, Acting Police Chief Ian Schmutzler presented to City Council the findings from three separate investigations into the incident.

He said the officer involved is no longer a police dog handler but is still with his department. He wouldn’t comment on his current assignment.

The chief said internal affairs investigated the officer, but confidentiality around any personnel issues prohibits him from talking about any disciplinary action.

The K-9, Gus, has since been returned to the company the department purchased him from.

“Thankfully, he’s in really, really good shape,” Schmutzler said.

There are currently three K-9 teams within the department.

“It was a very difficult time having so many calls coming into the department with specific threats to harm canine officers, to harm police in general,” Schmutzler said.

Schmutzler said the investigation found additional training is needed as the handler and canine come together.

“We need to do more training with the handlers prior to getting the dog so that they understand to a better extent, the proper care, the proper feeding, the proper training of these animals,” Chief Schmutzler said. “We absolutely need to do right away.“

Several residents spoke during public comment, sharing their disgust over the incident.

Schmutzler says despite the backlash, the department has learned from the incident. 

“We are moving forward. That’s all we can do is learn from what’s taken place and just continuously move forward and progress,” Schmutzler said.

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