(CIRCLEVILLE, Ohio) — An Ohio K-9 officer has been fired after an investigation into why his police dog attacked a Black truck driver who was on his knees with his hands up following a highway chase, officials said Wednesday.
Circleville, Ohio, K-9 Officer Ryan Speakman’s termination is “effective immediately,” the Circleville Police Department said in a statement.
“Officer Speakman did not meet the standards and expectations we hold for our police officers,” police officials said.
Speakman was fired after the Circleville Police Use of Force Review Board investigated the attack and submitted its report to the city officials.
The officer was let go despite the review board concluding that the “department’s policy for the use of canines was followed in the apprehension and arrest.”
“It’s important to understand that the Review Board is charged only with determining whether an employee’s actions in the use of force incident were within department policies and procedures,” the Circleville police statement said. “The Review Board does not have the authority to recommend discipline.”
Speakman was fired a day after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine called for an increase in training for all police dogs in the state and their handlers as a result of the highway attack on the truck driver, 23-year-old Jaddarius Rose.
DeWine broke his silence about the incident involving a Circleville K-9 as the local chapter of Black Lives Matter announced it is planning a large protest on Saturday outside the Circleville Police Department. The BLM group listed a string of demands on its Facebook page, including the immediate firing of Speakman and that the police dog that mauled the driver be retired.
The Circleville police statement did not comment on the fate of the police dog.
“This incident in Circleville should be a lesson, a wake-up call to everyone that police training in Ohio is not equal. It needs to be equal,” DeWine said at a news conference on Tuesday.
The governor said he will propose to the state General Assembly that funding be added to the state budget to build a training facility for K-9 units across Ohio, saying, he wants the training to “be available to every single law enforcement agency in the state of Ohio no matter how big or how small.”
DeWine spoke out after he said he viewed the body camera footage released by the Ohio State Highway Police of the K-9 attack on Rose of Memphis, Tennessee.
The incident unfolded in Ross County, Ohio, on the Fourth of July, but the video wasn’t made public until last week. The footage showed Rose on his knees with his hands in the air after allegedly leading police on a lengthy chase.
The video showed Speakman appear to turn his dog loose and point at Rose despite a state trooper repeatedly yelling, “Do not release the dog with his hands up.” The dog attacked Rose, grabbing his arm as he screamed, “Get it off,” and appeared in pain.
According to the video, other officers, including Speakman, rushed to Rose as he was being bitten in the grassy center median and pulled the animal off.
Rose was treated at a hospital and later booked at the Ross County Jail on charges of failure to comply, a fourth-degree felony, according to the highway police.
“You have a Circleville police officer making clearly a call that was not within normal protocol,” DeWine said after viewing the body-camera footage. “You also have a highway patrolman that is very well trained, tell the Circleville police officer ‘no, don’t send the dog out, we have this under control."”
DeWine added, “Frankly, my first reaction was training, it really was. You just have to make sure that every officer has the right training and that is not taking place in those smaller departments.”
Circleville police officials said the dog was trained by Pennsylvania-based Shallow Creek Kennels Inc., which “affirmed that its training protocols were followed,” the police department’s statement said, noting that the company’s training protocols are standard for service dogs deployed by the U.S. military, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and police departments across the nation and Canada.
“While we certainly respect Gov. DeWine’s views and are always ready to discuss how to improve police training, Circleville’s canine teams of dogs and officers are trained and certified to meet current Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission-recognized standards,” the police statement said.
Troopers from the state Highway Police Department’s Motor Carrier Enforcement Inspector unit initially attempted to pull Rose over for an alleged traffic defect violation of missing a mudflap on the left rear of his trailer, according to a police incident report. Rose allegedly failed to stop and led police on a chase through three counties before troopers blew out his tires by placing spike strips in the road, forcing him to stop.
During the chase, Rose called 911 and told a dispatcher, “They’re trying to kill me,” according to a recording of the call released by Ross County authorities.
“Right now, I have police officers following me for a long time and I am trying to figure out why they have their guns pulled out,” Rose said in the 911 call. “I am just a truck driver. I was about to comply with them, but they all had their guns drawn out. There are like 20 police cars behind me. And I don’t feel safe.”
Circleville Mayor Donald McIlroy told ABC News on Monday that Speakman, the K-9 officer, was put on paid administrative leave last Thursday and his dog was put in a kennel.
McIlroy said the city’s five-member use of force review board, made up of community residents, is investigating the incident and is expected to send its report to him by the end of this week or early next week. He said that once he gets the report, “we’ll make a determination where we’ll go forward.”
Asked by ABC News if he was aware of any disciplinary action taken against Speakman in the past, McIlroy said, “Yes.” He directed ABC News to the city’s human resources department to file a public records request, but the file has not yet been released.
Efforts by ABC News to reach Rose and Speakman for comment have not been successful.
Tom Austin, executive director of the Ohio Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, said in a statement released Wednesday following the announcement of Speakman’s firing that the union’s senior lawyer Joseph Hegedus has filed an official grievance with the city of Circleville contending the officer was terminated “without just cause.”
In the grievance, Hegedus wrote that the officer’s firing is “contrary to mandatory principles of progressive discipline” and is a violation of the union’s collective bargaining agreement. The grievance asked that Speakman’s termination be rescinded and that he be reimbursed for “wages, seniority and benefits lost.”
Hegedus also asked that Speakman’s termination be expunged from his personnel records.
Despite the firing of Speakman, the central Ohio Black Lives Matter organization said it is moving forward with a protest at noon on Saturday outside the Circleville Police headquarters. In a statement Wednesday to ABC News, the BLM group said more than 1,100 people plan to participate in the protest.
The BLM group is also calling for the dog that attacked Rose to be retired, asking for Circleville Police Chief Shawn Baer to resign or be fired and that all charges against Rose be dropped. The organization is also asking that race sensitivity training be provided to all Circleville police officers and that the police department’s budget be cut by 50%. Baer could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
“In the wake of the termination of former officer Ryan Speakman from the Circleville Police Department, our resolve for justice has only grown stronger,” the group said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
The BLM group said it is calling on the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the incident, adding, “We firmly believe that (an) indictment is necessary.”
“The protest will continue to send a powerful message demanding transparency, accountability and criminal charges for any wrongdoings,” the group said.
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