Gladstone Police Department dismantles K-9 team

Gladstone Police Department dismantles K-9 team »Play Video
Gladstone police officer Steve Mixson and his canine partner, Dyno.

GLADSTONE, Ore. -- The Gladstone police department's K-9 team has been dismantled.

Police Chief Jim Pryde broke the news to city council members Tuesday night after the city's only K-9 handler stepped down in response to KATU's inquiries.

"This is a real loss for us in terms of the program, not only in terms of crime prevention but criminal apprehension," Pryde said to the council.

This comes one day after the On Your Side Investigators unearthed a damning nine-page police review of Gladstone police Officer Steve Mixson and his handling of Dyno, who bit four officers - including Mixson - while responding to criminal calls in the last two years.

The latest and most serious incident, in January, involved veteran Gladstone Officer Travis Hill who was bitten so hard by Dyno, he had to have surgery and extended time off to recover. That latest incident triggered a police review of the biting incidents and Pryde said the K-9 team hasn't worked a criminal call together since. 

The review details each situation where an officer was bitten and includes analysis from three expert canine handlers around the region who concluded Mixson's K-9 deployments of the dog "have not been appropriate uses of the dog."

There were also concerns about "…Officer Mixson and his use of poor judgment, emotional decision making and emotional reactions to high stress situations."

Pryde went over the report  with Mixson with intentions to keep Mixson on as handler as long as he had new training. However, in a memo penned by the Chief and dated March 31, "Following inquiries into our K-9 program from KATU News, Officer Mixson chose to step down."

Pryde told council members, "I can tell you that officer Mixson is taking this very hard. He has his own reasons for stepping down and and I'm not going to try to recreate what his words would be."

Pryde said the department began recruiting another canine handler but no one wanted the job.

"I'm sad to report, none of the staff were interested in taking on that responsibility, so we don't have anyone to handle the dog," Pryde told council members.

The On Your Side Investigators approached the Chief after the meeting for an on camera interview. He declined but agreed to answer KATU's questions off camera.

While Pryde said he agreed with the review's findings of Mixson, he was adamant Gladstone K-9 program was effective. He said Mixson's first three deployments of Dyno and subsequent bites could be explained. He also said Mixson received training after each of those incidents.

But the fourth bite, Pryde said was egregious and never should have happened.

"Sometimes things don't work out as you envision them," Pryde told council members.

For now, Pryde said Dyno is back with his former handler acting more as a house pet. It's possible the department will sell Dyno to Mixson or sell to another police department. There is at least one agency that expressed interest.

With all that said, conversation between council members suggested it was possible Gladstone's K-9 unit could return, especially since a couple of city council members expressed real interest in maintaining the program for several reasons, but primarily to help cut down crime.

"It sounds like we're giving up. I have to give up so quick," council member Thomas Mersereau said.

Pryde called Dyno an incredible service dog who's "received very high ratings, certifications. He's regarded by his Clackamas County trainers as a 'rockstar' - whatever that means - and he still has many serviceable years in law enforcement."

In a twist of fate, Officer Hill - the same officer who was seriously injured by Dyno in January - told the chief he would be interested in becoming Dyno's new handler, "however, with his situation in his life, the timing right now is not right," Pryde told the council. KATU asked to speak with him but the chief declined on his behalf.

KATU filed a public records request last month about the biting incidents but never heard back.

When asked about it Tuesday night, Pryde said he "didn't know why" the department never responded but said he would get the information KATU requested.