"Simply stated, there is no evidence that Dolpho (the dog) was dangerous or uncontrollable in the past," said a 13-page report by borough Solicitor John A. Bacharach...
...The report absolves Dolpho and his owner-handler, Officer Shawn Barger, of any wrongdoing in a June 7 incident when Dolpho attacked Brandon Livingston, 9. The dog bit the boy on the thigh to the point where Barger had to lie on the dog to force him to release his grip.
The officer had been chasing a drug suspect who is white. Brandon is black.
Livingston's mother brought the matter to the attention of Councilwoman Wanda Jones Dixon, who suggested the dog attacked Livingston because he is black and should be put down because of that.
Jones Dixon doesn't entirely agree with Bacharach's conclusion.
"There was wrongdoing because the dog bit the child," she said.
She called it an injustice that the dog was returned to duty Wednesday and said she will warn parents.
The June 7 incident started when Barger saw an apparent drug deal and followed a car containing the suspect, later identified as Donald John Wilczak, the report said. Wilczak eventually jumped from the car and ran, and Barger chased him. During a struggle on a porch in 700 block of Boquet Street, the remote release device on Barger's belt apparently was activated unintentionally, and the door on the police wagon opened, the report said. As Barger radioed for assistance, the suspect got away and ran west.
The report said Barger saw Dolpho standing on the sidewalk next to the police Jeep, looking at Wilczak as the suspect turned onto Margaret Street. Barger yelled "pletz," the command for "down," but Dolpho ran to the top of Margaret Street. Barger turned onto Margaret and saw 10 or more children running away, screaming. One was Brandon, whom Dolpho grabbed by the thigh and pulled from the porch steps to the street, the report said.
Barger ran toward Dolpho yelling for him to stop, but the dog did not release the boy. The report said Barger tackled Dolpho and choked him off Brandon, then lay on Dolpho until the dog calmed down.
Carol Carlin of Frank Street told Bacharach that she saw Wilczak between her house and the one next door. That path would have taken Wilczak through or near the children on Margaret Street and within a few feet of the Livingston's porch, the report said.
At a borough council meeting three days after Brandon was bitten, Brandon's mother and Jones Dixon charged that the dog had been trained to attack blacks.
Ms. Dixon, just curious. How can you train a dog to attack black people (or people of color, as opposed to people of pallor) when dogs are, by nature, color blind?
Bacharach's report said Dolpho's trainer, Kenneth J. Molen, said the dog might have become confused or overstimulated by the noise and confusion. Molen said he does not train dogs to distinguish or focus on any race and that his training regimen does not use decoys that appear African American, according to the report...K9s can sometimes get confused, especially with multiple people in the area. One thing patrol cops are trained to not do is get in front of a K9 pursuing a suspect. If he confuses you with the bad guy...you will have a bad day, and the bad guy has a better chance of getting away. And yes, an agitated K9 is a bear to control at times. Every K9 handler I've know has scars on their arms from controlling the dog. As one friend of mine said, "Occupational hazard."
As this incident occurred two decades ago, I have no doubt Dolpho has crossed the Rainbow Bridge by now. Hopefully this bull s%^& complaint didn't adversely affect his service to the public, and he enjoyed a long and healthy retirement, sharing this war story with his buddies. Remember, if you ain't getting complained on from time to time...you are likely not doing your job. :<)