A month after a Waco police dog was shot and killed when it attacked its handler, the Waco Police Department has, at least temporarily, pulled its K-9 units from service and hired a consultant to re-evaluate elements of the program.
Waco Police Chief Ryan Holt made the decision after a police dog, Kastor, attacked his handler, 14-year veteran Officer Michael Bucher, during a search for a wanted man Oct. 3. Detective Eric Trojanowski fatally shot the 2-year-old Belgian Malinois after Kastor ignored Bucher’s repeated commands to stop the attack, Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said in the week after the incident. Trojanowski, who has been with the department 11 years, unsuccessfully tried to pull the dog off Bucher before Bucher requested the detective “put Kastor down to stop the attack,” Swanton said at the time.
“We haven’t really changed anything yet, but we are letting everyone get their space and catch their breath,” Holt said. “I think this is an appropriate time to conduct a holistic audit of what we do and how we do it, because this was a very traumatic event for our officers.”
He called the status of the program an “operational pause.”
The man Waco police and U.S. marshals were trying to locate when the dog attacked, Kevin Arnett Copeland, 31, was arrested in Ennis the next week on a warrant charging him with second-degree felony robbery in a violent incident Sept. 22 at a dollar store in Waco.
The department requested the dog undergo a necropsy at Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory, Holt said. The lab determined Kastor died of the single gunshot would and did not find any evidence he was suffering from any other medical issue that could have contributed to unusual behavior, he said.
“I think we are reminded that although these dogs are incredibly smart and the handlers and dogs go through a lot of training, these animals are still animals,” Holt said. “We want to perform an internal audit, look at our training practices, the type of dogs we are using and look at the incident itself to see what we need to look at for the entire program.”
To look at the entire program, the department hired HITS K9, a Florida-based police dog training and consulting organization. Instructors arrived last week to start their review and elevation of the program and will issue a report for the department to review when their work is complete.
“We wanted to bring in a third-party organization to make sure we are good stewards of tax payer dollars,” Holt said. “We want to not only be good stewards of our resources, but we want to be good stewards of our people, so this is the an appropriate time to take a holistic look.”
Patrol officers in need of a police dog’s services are routing requests through police commanders, and the department may seek assistance from neighboring agencies while its program is on hold, Holt said.
There is not a set date for a return of Waco’s police dog program, Holt said. The department’s remaining dogs are staying with their handlers, as they do while in service.