Union to appeal reprimand over officer releasing dog on boy

Published: Friday, January 14, 2011 at 8:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 14, 2011 at 8:57 p.m.

The union representing Gainesville Police Cpl. Tim Durst will appeal the reprimand he was given last week for letting his police dog loose on a 10-year-old boy last year, resulting in bite marks to the boy's leg.

Fraternal Order of Police President Jeff McAdams, a GPD officer, said Durst did not violate any policies and did as he was trained in releasing his dog, Grady, on Bryce Bates when responding to a burglary-in-progress call that turned out to be false.

"He should not have gotten any discipline. They have not proven that he violated any policy," McAdams said. "This was one of the most incredible, unfortunate incidents -- and embarrassing incidents -- in the history of the Gainesville Police Department. But in the set of events that led up to it, Tim did nothing wrong."

The FOP will hold a rally for Durst along with a news conference Tuesday at 4 p.m. in front of GPD headquarters on Northwest Sixth Street.

Durst made a judgment error in freeing his dog before verifying that a reported crime had occurred and failing to verify that the description of the boy matched the reported suspects, according to an internal affairs report released Thursday.

Chief Tony Jones told The Sun on Thursday that the reprimand was the appropriate punishment given the policies in place at the time. He added that new guidelines regarding the release of police dogs have been implemented.

At the time of the incident, GPD's manual regarding the use of dogs for apprehension stated a K-9 could be released: to prevent the escape of a person whom the officer believes has committed a felony offense; if the subject has outstanding warrants; or if the person is believed to be armed and a serious threat to officers.

Also, the officer must warn the subject to stop, according to the manual, and state that the dog will be released if the subject does not stop.

Now, officers can release their dogs only when a felony property crime has been verified. The officer must reasonably believe that the suspect was involved. The dogs cannot be freed on people under the age of 16 unless they are involved in a violent crime, Jones said.

Bryce was bitten on Aug. 8 just after a burglary-in-progress call was reported about 3:20 p.m. in the 3400 block of Northwest 21st Drive.

Bryce had retrieved mail at the entrance of the condominium complex and had ridden his bicycle a short distance when he saw a police car speeding toward him.

Fearful, Bryce hopped off his bike and ran toward home. Reports and McAdams said Durst yelled several times for Bryce to stop, then released Grady when he didn't. Bryce was bitten just as he got to the door of his home.

McAdams said Durst could not tell from a distance that Bryce was a 10-year-old boy.

"A burglary-in-progress is a huge issue because that dwelling can be occupied, and lives can be at risk," McAdams said. "Tim's training kicked in. As soon as Tim rounded the corner, the kid was 200 yards away from the residence of the burglary riding a bike. He threw his bike down and ran. I'm a cop -- if I see anybody throw down a bike and run, I'm thinking they did something wrong."

McAdams said the union will go to arbitration on the reprimand, adding he believes Durst will prevail.

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