09/01/2007

S.C. state officer accused of abusing K9

THE NEWS & OBSERVER

The state Highway Patrol stripped one of its canine handlers of his badge and dog Friday while officials investigate an animal abuse complaint against him, a spokesman said.

Sgt. Charles L. Jones, a 12-year veteran of the patrol, has been under scrutiny by internal affairs investigators since a training exercise in Raleigh in early August. A fellow patrolman recorded Jones' treatment of Ricoh, a Belgian Malinois, with his cell-phone video camera. The patrolman turned the video over to internal affairs investigators.

On Friday, weeks after the incident, Brian Beatty, the state Secretary of Crime Control and Public Safety, asked agents at the State Bureau of Investigation to determine whether Jones broke the law. It is a felony to abuse a law enforcement animal.

"We expect our troopers to treat their canines ethically," said Lt. Everett Clendenin, spokesman for the patrol. "After all, that's their partner."

Jones, who was placed on investigative leave, declined to comment Friday and referred questions to Clendenin. Other patrolmen who attended the training exercise did not return calls for comment this week.

The patrol has refused to release the short video clip capturing Jones' behavior, citing personnel privacy laws. It has also declined to provide an account of the incident.

Sources inside the patrol who have watched the video say it captures Jones abusing the dog.

Ricoh was not seen by a veterinarian after the training exercise and remained on active duty with Jones until Friday, Clendenin said. Ricoh, whose breed resembles the German shepherd, lived with Jones at his Wake County home.

The dog has been turned over to another trooper until the investigation is completed, Clendenin said. Ricoh will be housed at a kennel at the patrol's training academy in Raleigh for the time being.

Jones and Ricoh have worked the highways and interstates of Wake and surrounding counties to sniff out illegal drugs as part of the patrol's interdiction team, Clendenin said. Jones also coordinates training exercises for the patrol's nine other troopers who work with dogs. Jones was appointed to that position earlier this year and currently earns an annual salary of $60,295, according to the patrol.

Jones will continue to collect his pay until the patrol's internal affairs unit completes its investigation. He cannot, however, come to work or have access to Ricoh.

Jones' wife, Angela Jones, is the administrative assistant to Col. Fletcher Clay, commander of the state Highway Patrol, according to public records. Clay has removed himself from the investigation and appointed Maj. Jamie Hatcher to determine whether and how Jones will be disciplined.

(Staff writer Dan Kane and news researchers Denise Jones and Lamara Williams-Hackett contributed to this report.)

Staff writer Dan Kane and news researchers Denise Jones and Lamara Williams-Hackett contributed to this report.

Copyright 2007 News & Observer

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