MERIDIAN -- Meridian Patrol Officer David Gomez was responding to a complaint of two vicious dogs running loose in a neighborhood early last summer. He recorded the encounter on his newly-issued body cam.
With animal control still fifteen minutes away, Gomez alone tries to corral the snarling canines.
“You can see these dogs came after me pretty good,” said Gomez.
But despite the aggression from the dogs Gomez remains calm. A marked difference from some police-canine encounters we've seen in the past. Like in Filer, Idaho back in 2014 where an officer shot a barking dog at point blank range. Gomez says a string of similar cases prompted the Meridian Police Department to change the way it trains officers in canine encounters.
“In this case the training did help me so I didn't have to use lethal force on them,” said Gomez. “They just gave us the option of things we already carry on our tool belts, some of the danger signs to look for and some of the things we can do to avoid shooting a dog.”
The program is called Canine Encounters Law Enforcement Training. Meridian Police along with other local agencies took the classes two years ago. The training encourages officers to use verbal commands, pepper spray and their collapsible batons to keep dogs at bay.
“You kind of have to have some faith in the training because until you do it, it's hard to imagine that just pointing a stick at a dog will work. But in this case it worked beautifully,” said Gomez.
This is the first time that Meridian Police has released body cam footage to the public. They say the goal is to give other officers confidence that these tactics can keep a bark from becoming a bite.
“We're hoping that other officers can see this and it'll boost their confidence, as well,” said Gomez. “Because until you do it, it's kind of hard to, on faith, say ‘hey, I'm going to do this.’”