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RIVIERA BEACH, FL – A series of recent missteps and alleged crimes by Riviera Beach police officers have left the department’s K9 unit badly short-handed, or perhaps more accurately, short-pawed.
“It is disappointing when an officer is charged, however we still keep in mind that it’s an allegation in all five cases,” says the city’s spokesperson Rose Anne Brown.
In September, four of the department’s six K9 officers were taken off the street for allegedly downloading porngraphy on a computer at the Port of Palm Beach and re-assigned to the patrol division.
Now, a fifth handler has been removed from the elite squad.
43-year-old Maurice Morris in court Monday, indicted for sexual battery and bribery.
His dog will be retired, they say, temporarily leaving the city with just one of its K9 units.
“What we plan to do is we will actually operate with five K9′s when the four come out of training,” said Brown.
Meanwhile, taxpayers have temporarily lost the use of the dogs.
The animals will typically take three weeks to adjust to their new home and handler, but the human training will take longer.
“Learning how to track and lead the dog, all the obedience, all the bite work, all the control – uh, it’s physically and mentally extremely challenging,” says Bob Anderson, who owns Anderson International K9 college in Riviera each.
The department’s retraining work is going on at Anderson’s facility.
Anderson himself is a highly decorated former K9 officer with more than 20 years in the business.
“It’s a good group,” Anderson says of the new officers taking-on the K9 responsibilities, “It’s going extremely well. They’re having fun. The dogs are having fun. Challenging, but it’s rewarding.”
The dogs and their new hand-picked partners should be ready to hit the streets again in about two months, says Anderson.
In the meantime, Riviera Beach wants its citizens to know they’re fully covered.
If they need a K9 unit, and their remaining dog is off duty, they’ve worked out mutual aid agreements with surrounding cities to provide K9 service.
City officials say Riviera Beach already had the largest K9 unit of any local municipality, so going from six dogs to five when the training is completed won’t compromise their level of service.
Four of the officers who lost their spot on the elite squad have been moved to patrol positions. The fifth, Morris, is on paid administrative leave.