Area law enforcement invited to Woodville dog trainingWritten by Sarah Ottney | Editor in Chief | email@example.com
The village of Woodville will host a nationally recognized dog behavior expert next month and there are still a few openings remaining at the daylong training for area law enforcement officials.
Jim Osorio of Texas-based Canine Encounters will lead the eight-hour session on May 4. Osorio, recognized as one of the nation’s leading experts in canine aggression and the use of nonlethal tactics, has trained thousands of law enforcement officials nationwide, according to his website.
“He’s one of the best. His background is unbelievable,” said Woodville mayor Rich Harman, who organized the training. “We’ll be the first ones in Ohio to get this training. I’m proud of that.”
The training is set for 8:15 a.m. May 4 at Woodville United Methodist Church. Breakfast and lunch will be served. Space is limited and registration is required. To register, contact Woodville Police Chief Roy Whitehead at (419) 849-2211 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The training will focus on decoding dog behaviors and body language, types of aggression, nonlethal methods of self-defense and more.
“This training isn’t to belittle any officer. This is for education, to teach officers how to protect themselves, protect the dog and protect those around them,” Harman said. “[Osorio] will help officers understand there are nonlethal ways to do this.”
The $2,100 training was paid for by Harman and will be offered at no cost to attendees, who will be credited eight hours from the Ohio Peace Officers Training Academy.
Among those planning to attend the training are police departments from Bowling Green, Bryan, Clay Township, Defiance, Fremont, Napoleon and Northwood, Fulton County Sheriff’s Department, Cuyahoga Housing Authority and a prosecutor from Wayne County, Harman said.
The training comes in the wake of a Nov. 3 incident in which a Woodville Police officer shot and injured a dog that approached a traffic stop along U.S. Route 20. The dog, a chocolate lab named Moses, later had its right front leg amputated. A review of the incident by the department and the Sandusky County Prosecutor’s Office found K9 Officer Steve Gilkerson to have acted within department guidelines. He was not charged or disciplined.
Jeffrey Justice, an advocate in Colorado who operates the Facebook page “Dogs Shot by Police,” recommended Canine Encounters to Harman
“[Osorio’s] hands-on training, experience and knowledge about the use of nonlethal means is what sets him apart,” Justice said.
Justice’s page tracks reports of officer-involved dog shootings nationwide. Last year, at least 680 dogs were shot by police officers in the United States, including 78 in Ohio, but Justice believes there are more incidents that go unreported. The number in Ohio jumped last year from previous years: 30 in 2009, 32 in 2010, 31 in 2011, 37 in 2012 and 40 in 2013.
“I am a dog advocate, but I’m more than that; I’m a civil rights advocate,” Justice said, referencing an Iowa woman who was accidentally shot and killed earlier this year by a police officer who was allegedly startled by a dog. “This is all about the safety of the public. A reduction in officer-involved dog shootings will save human lives also.”
Colorado was the first state to mandate canine encounter training for all law enforcement officers, something Justice supported and advocated for. Harman said he would like to see similar legislation passed in Ohio.
“When you shoot a dog, you divide the community,” Harman said. “People lose confidence in the department. More than 40 percent of people in this country own dogs. It’s a family member.”
Following the Woodville shooting, the department added vest cameras and dashboard cameras. Officers were also offered a shorter seminar on dog behavior this winter.
“I love animals, I do. It was hard on me to see that happen,” Harman said of the shooting. “But I don’t know many communities who have done what we’ve done — added vest cams, dash cams, offered trainings. We’re working on re-establishing more of a community policing model.”
The village is also launching Coffee with a Cop, a monthly forum for police officers and community members to gather and talk. The first forum is set for 9 a.m. April 21 at Speedtrap Diner.
“These past six months have been so educational to me,” Harman said. “If you see something you can change, try to do it.”
Justice said he applauds Woodville’s decision to host the training.
“There has to be a lot of credit given to Woodville and its mayor,” Justice said. “This is going to benefit not just Woodville but the entire state.”
For more information, visit www.canineencounters.com.