St. Louis County Police Board: No More Police Dogs for Crowd Control

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A police officer and a K-9 unit dog stand guard in Ferguson, Missouri following Michael Brown's death. Mario Anzuoni/ Reuters

The St. Louis County Police Department will no longer allow the use of police dogs for crowd control, according to reports.

The policy, finalized by the St. Louis County Police Board on Wednesday, comes after a federal review lambasted their use in Ferguson, Missouri, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Ferguson is situated within St. Louis County and it is one of the many county municipalities that have their own police departments—which are separate from the St. Louis County Police Department. A spokesman for the St. Louis County Police Department told Newsweek: "The St. Louis County Police Board speaks only for the St. Louis County Police Department, not other agencies."

Jeff Small, a spokesman for the city of Ferguson, said its police department did not specifically discuss crowd control in its K-9 regulations but that:

Each year, and in particular following periods of unrest over the past year, the Ferguson Police Department has reviewed its policies and procedures. Those deemed to be in need of revision are changed to more effectively address the concerns of the department and the community. In April of 2010 we chose to update our general order regarding the use of K-9 dogs. To date, the policy strictly forbids the use of K-9 to unlawfully intimidate or threaten subjects.

A recent federal critique said St. Louis County and Ferguson law enforcement utilized police dogs to secure a crime scene and during an officer's call for assistance, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explains.

The use of police dogs for crowd control is "'inconsistent with widely accepted policing practices and, in fact, exacerbated tensions by unnecessarily inciting fear and anger among amassing crowds,'" said the paper, citing the report.

While acknowledging that police dogs had been used during protests, the St. Louis County police chief, Jon Belmar, insisted: "We were careful not to use the dogs for crowd control, even though that was very strongly inferred by the report."

Belmar also expressed skepticism that a forthcoming U.S. Department of Justice report on the police department would be accurate.

"The Chief will not comment any further until the COPS [Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, part of the U.S. Department of Justice] office releases their collaborative review report on our department," the St. Louis Police Department spokesman said in his email.

Following the August 9, 2014 death of Michael Brown at the hands of Ferguson Police Department officer Darren Wilson, and ongoing protests surrounding his killing, Belmar requested to participate in the "so-called federal collaborative reform process," the paper reports.