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July 6, 2013

Report defends K9 use at St. Peter's Club

But chief also seeks review of sheriff's department tactics

(Continued)

“I realize that Fiesta is a challenging time for our police force, and again, overall, we are pleased with the level of public safety provided,” Kirk had written in her letter to Campanello requesting the report.

The incidents that set Kirk’s phone jingling with calls from residents began when police entered the St. Peter’s Club to arrest a patron who was allegedly causing a disturbance.

A man answering the phone at the St. Peter’s Club Friday, said no one who could comment was available Friday afternoon.

But, according to Campanello’s preliminary report, the arrest and disturbance inside the club angered patrons, some of whom began yelling and screaming at police. Because the incident commander — Leanos — sensed a threat to public safety, with many in the crowd consuming alcohol, too, Leanos called in the K9s to set up a perimeter around the bar and disperse the group.

Sgt. George Gikas of the Essex County Sheriffs Deparment was one of the K9 officers called in. The two arrests he made, at least one caught on video, were the actions that enraged bystanders and people watching the video later, inspiring the internal police investigation into the incident.

Chief Campanello requested a report from Gikas to include in his response to the mayor. In recounting the incident, Gikas said the crowd had ignored commands to leave the area.

“We continued with verbal commands to clear the area and move along, to no avail,” Gikas wrote.

One man, who officers said they had told to leave the area at least four times, began swinging his arms at another K9 officer’s dog. Gikas “grabbed” that man’s shirt and pulled him into the street so another officer could handcuff him, he said.

Then, a second man pointed a finger at Gikas and threatened to kill his K9, he said.

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