- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 17, 2015

Canines will no longer be used for crowd control in St. Louis County after a federal investigation concluded that the policy proved to be “inappropriate and ineffective” when used on protesters last year in Ferguson, Missouri.

The St. Louis County Police Board adopted a measure Wednesday that explicitly prohibits dogs from being deployed for crowd control, the Post-Dispatch reported. The decision was made less than two weeks after the practice was condemned in a report published by the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Service, also known as COPS.

That report, an after-action analysis of how regional law enforcement responded to mass protests and riots last year following the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, found that using canines for crowd control never ran afoul of agency policy. Nevertheless, the review concluded that the tactic was “inconsistent with widely accepted policing practices and, in fact, exacerbated tensions by unnecessarily inciting fear and anger among amassing crowds.”

“Although policy may not prohibit the use of canines for crowd control, police leaders must recognize that use of canines may undermine confidence in and trust of the police and may adversely impact the overall mission,” its authors determined.

Chief Jon Belmar said during Wednesday’s board meeting that the St. Louis County Police did not use dogs in the manner depicted in the report, despite the Department of Justice’s “strong implication that we did,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

“We were careful not to use the dogs for crowd control, even though that was very strongly inferred by the report,” Chief Belmar said.

The nearly 200-page COPS report released Sept. 3 was limited in that it only covered police activity in the 17 days following the shooting death of Michael Brown last August. However, a separate Justice Department study put out earlier this year concluded that the Ferguson Police Department routinely deployed dogs to bite individuals “when the articulated facts do not justify this significant use of force.”

According to the Post-Dispatch, the measure adopted Wednesday will permit the police to use dogs for drug and bomb detection, as well as some pursuits, but prohibits canines from being deployed for purposes of crowd control, be it containment or dispersal.

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