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K-9 supervisors and internal affairs investigators said they found no issues with any of the 94 bites during the 17-month period reviewed by the Sun Sentinel, whether the dog bit a juvenile, a person who didn’t commit a crime, or someone who claimed they had their hands up in surrender.
Broward Sheriff’s Sgt. Emmanuel Koutsofios describes aerial footage of the recent use of a K-9 team to apprehend a suspect during a media event at the department’s hangar at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport last month. (Amy Beth Bennett / South Florida Sun Sentinel)
Hollywood’s policy prohibits the use of K-9s “to apprehend known juveniles wanted for anything other than violent felonies.” Yet nine of the 21 people bitten by Hollywood dogs were minors, one as young as 14. All were suspected of riding in or operating stolen vehicles, or breaking into and stealing from unoccupied cars or businesses, crimes which are not violent felonies. None were armed. The 14-year-old was accused of jumping a fence at a car lot and messing with the security cameras.
In December 2019, Hollywood K-9 officer Jeremy Ownbey commanded his dog Pito to bite a young suspected car burglar who ran from a traffic stop on foot. The boy, whose name and age are withheld in reports, was hiding in a wooden box “with both hands married together underneath both straps of his multicolored book bag,” the police report says. Because the child refused to come out of the box, and because Ownbey could not see the boy’s hands, he commanded Pito to bite, his report says. There is no video of the incident because Hollywood Police don’t use body cameras.
Hollywood Police Spokeswoman Deanna Bettineschi said the policy refers to “known juveniles,” and police often don’t know the age of the person.