Barking about dogs dominates called city council meeting (full video)
The Homerville City Council had a two-hour called meeting Wednesday at the Station #11 Depot, with city council members Jamayla Morehead and Elexis Williams questioning Police Chief Desmond Dilorenzo about his department’s policy concerning dogs. The News will have a story in its next print edition. Full video of meeting – minus the 1.5 hour executive session for personnel – below.
Clinch County News Here are my two cents as a career law enforcement officer, supervisor, trainer, and college professor.
1) The Chief is disrespectful. He seems to forget he works at the discretion of the Council and mayor. He is agitated when questioned about his job. He is accountable for his actions and policies and should have no issues calmly articulating his positions when asked. On a personal note, his tone was uncalled for, and if he treats council members this way, I am concerned about what he would do with a gun out on the street with such a temperament if he responds so poorly to questions in a safe and calm room.
2) The Chief donated a dog to the Homerville police department – aka himself. Such a self-serving “donation” is a considerable conflict of interest. Any donation should be approved by the city manager then brought to a vote before the Council. Having the full council vote on a donation eliminates conflict of interests and ensures the right thing is being done for the right reasons.
3) The Chief references the dog has a value as per his calculations at $17,500. That is his estimation at best. The Chief states he gave himself a letter to donate it, and he signed off on his own actions. Again, this is a conflict of interest, and I would want to know from an investigative standpoint did he write off $17,500 in charitable donations to the City of Homerville? Does he now get city-paid vet care, food, etc., for his dog? At the end of the video, I watched the Chief again states the last dog, the black lab, was “My dog”. You can not personally own a drug dog as your pet and be covered by the city liability policy, that makes no sense to the tax payes at all and only benefits the Chief with tax write offs and free care for his K9. That alone would subject the City to an IRS/GA Department of Revenue audit as well as the Chief. I would recommend the GBI be asked to investigate via a request from Sheriff Tinsley that should come from the mayor/council. There are clear procedures on how to do this under GA law. The GBI would be happy to investigate if merely asked. That does not mean something is wrong, but they would independently give a professional analysis of what has taken place to date. I believe a county that size would be best served by a one-stop-shop, so to speak, in turning everything over to the Sheriff who sits a mile away from the Police Department. The Sheriff is accountable to voters while a police department is not. Just a thought.
4) When the Chief is asked if the dog is certified, he becomes loud, defensive, and confrontation with council members. The Chiefs behavior is very unprofessional. The Chief’s behavior appears to be that of a man who has been caught doing something wrong. Being loud does not make you right. I have never seen a chief personally behave that way. He wants the issue to die because its likley there is misconduct or so it seems based on what I am hearing in the video. (See point 3 again above).
5) While a dog may not need to be certified per se under GA Law, it just isn’t done in modern policing by anyone, anywhere. The problem lies in liability and lawsuits and doing what is right. A dog’s accuracy in locating contraband must be documented on an ongoing basis. My agency ran their dogs through tests twice a month. As dog’s age or have medical problems, their reliability can drop, just as some have seen with hunting dogs. A poorly trained dog will also alert for the praise/treat they get alone if poorly trained. Is the Chief certified to train K9 narcotic detection dogs? If not, then he has nothing more than a pet that he gave the City as a tax write-off while he gets to continue to keep the dog as his defacto pet. If he “donated” the dog yet it only rides with him, stays at his home etc, it fails the donation test. Any defense attorney fresh out of law school will ask for this dog’s certification, training records, and success rates and win every single time. I know I would love to put a man on the stand who gets upset at any questions posed as he will clearly lose his composure as there is no basis for this dog being used by the City. This means if you use a faulty, untrained, unproved dog (key here), then even if you find 1,000 pounds of cocaine, our judges will toss it out. It’s the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine. You cant use a pretend drug dog; that’s what this is to be clear to then search and find things. If the stop and dog alert is improper, then everything found after that gets tossed out, and a bad guy will walk. This benefits no one.
6) The K9 should be added to the general liability policy. It likely was not because the dog was secured, donated, and the donation approved by the Chief. The Cheif took it upon himself to add to the citys budget costs and overall liability without getting approval from the City Manager, Mayor and Council. The Chief needs to remember that he reports to the Council, Mayor an City Mananger and is in fact accountable to them. Based on the Chief’s behavior I it appears that he thinks otherwise. A Chief that shouts down council members when asked direct, peritenent questions can not be tolerated by an elected body. The dog either belongs to the City or it does not. A nice test question would if the Chief left the City, would his dogs? He clearly says multiple times that it’s “My dog” to indicate possession versus the City of Homerville’s dog.
With all of that said, call in the GBI to investigate (it’s routine and not a big deal), suspend the dog from services as per the Chiefs own statements as it is not certified, and he wants it certified but it is NOT which presents a huge liability to the City with zero upsides. IT was never discussed if the dog is used as a “bite dog” or a drug detection dog” that matters significantly regarding the City’s cost. The Council should update policies on donations and police autonomy – aka doing things without approval for money and equipment.