Salisbury Mayor Pro-Tem wants transparency during investigation of incident involving police K9 Zuul

Updated: Mar. 8, 2021 at 3:54 PM EST
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SALISBURY, N.C. (WBTV) - One member of the Salisbury City Council is demanding transparency as the police department continues to investigate the treatment of a police K9 by his handler. In the video, it appears to show the police officer handler picking K9 officer Zuul off the ground by his leash, slamming him into the side of the patrol car, and then striking the dog once it’s inside the car.

WBTV reached out to Salisbury Mayor Pro-Tem Al Heggins about the issue because she released a video and statements calling for the city to be transparent when it comes to this investigation.

“People are very dismayed, very disturbed, very upset, they want information and they want action taken,” Heggins said.

Heggins says the Salisbury Police Department and city leaders have to provide answers about what was seen on the video. The video surfaced last Monday, the Salisbury Police Department held a press conference on Tuesday, displaying the dog and saying K9 Zuul had been administratively separated from his handler.

Chief Jerry Stokes promised a through investigation that he said would involve SPD as well as an outside agency.

The story was picked up by national and international news outlets. People for The Ethincal Treatment of Animals even protested at the police department on Friday.

Also on Friday, Salisbury Police released a short update saying Zuul was taking some time off and repeated a commitment to a thorough investigation.

“A thorough investigation of this specific incident and of the entire Salisbury Police Department’s K-9 operations is still ongoing by an outside agency and internal affairs. Once complete, we will take appropriate action to ensure that the department’s canine program follows the industry’s best K-9 practices.”

“We cannot comment further regarding the officer because it is an ongoing personnel matter. When we are able to release information to the public we will, within legal limits,” the release said.

“The Mayor lifted up that this is not a political issue,” Heggins said. “I totally agree with her that this is not a political issue. We have to move forward and the best way that we can is by sharing as much information as we legally can in order to maintain this public trust and confidence.”

Heggins believes it’s important in helping maintain trust with police.

“We have a great police department<” Heggins said. “Yes, we’ve seen something disturbing, we have comments that are very disturbing, and we don’t want anyone to think that it represents the entire Salisbury Police Department.”

WBTV has submitted several questions to the city and the police department asking about when the incident occurred, the current status of the police officer seen in the video, and more. A city spokesperson said the requests had been given to the City Clerk and that answers should be forthcoming “this week.”

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