City Officer Bitten By K-9 During Training Exercise
WILKES-BARRE — Another city police officer was injured in a K-9 biting incident, but it wasn’t a city police dog that did the biting.
Police Commander Joe Coffay confirmed K-9 officer Dan Roper suffered an injury to his hand during a training exercise last week.
“Both (city) K-9 Officers were taking part in their training, which consists of them putting on a bite suit and them taking bites from numerous dogs. It is all a part of their training at the training center,” Coffay said in an emailed response to an inquiry.
“The dogs are trained to bite, and that is exactly what they did during their training. The officers utilize a bite suit in order for them to take ‘hits’ from the dogs during their training. Although this affords them some protection, sometimes injuries happen,” he said.
Coffay said Roper was in training and taking bites from the dogs that were training.
The dog was not ours, but a corrections dog. As I said, he was in a bite suit which is used within their training,” Coffay said. “When the dog(s hit), they hit hard, and the bite occurred on his hand, causing an injury to his hand.”
“Happens all the time,” Coffay said.
Coffay said the dogs are being trained both in Wilkes-Barre and in Lancaster, and he’s not sure at which facility the incident occurred. He declined to comment on the extent of Roper’s injuries or work status, which he deemed a personnel matter.
The recent training incident marks at least the third time a city police officer was injured in a dog-bite incident within the past year.
Mayor Tony George ordered city police K-9s Chase and Skoty taken out of service a couple weeks after, he said, Chase “mauled” the leg of a police officer in December. That incident followed bites of two suspects the preceding summer.
The Belgian Malinois and their handlers — Roper and officer Joe Homza — were evaluated, and Chase and Homza completed recertification training. Chase returned to service in mid-July, while Skoty and Roper continued working with trainer Paul Price, of Northeast K9 Academy in Wilkes-Barre Twp., given that the two had not worked together previously on the street.
Then on Sept. 4, Chase bit officer Shane Smith on the leg during a search for a man who had fled the scene of an alleged break-in.
A witness told The Citizens’ Voice Smith had been holding a perimeter when Homza led Chase past him in search of the suspect, and the dog, for no apparent reason, bit Smith. The witness, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the dog “latched onto Shane Smith’s leg,” and “his calf was pretty torn up.”
Chase was again removed from service, and Coffay conducted an investigation of the incident. City Administrator Ted Wampole last week said Coffay determined that Homza did not violate any statutes, city ordinances, departmental policies or protocols for K-9 officers in connection with the incident, and “conducted a proper track of a fleeing suspect.”
Wampole said Coffay recommended all platoon officers receive training on police K-9 interaction. He said the dogs would be limited to narcotics detection work until the training of all platoon officers is complete. He declined to provide a copy of Coffay’s written report.
In his emailed response to the inquiry about Roper’s bite, Coffay wrote “the facts were way off and reported incorrectly” in the newspaper’s story on the incident involving Smith, but he did not immediately respond to an email asking what was incorrectly reported and which facts were “way off.”
Contact the writer: