When Mayor Lorenzo Langford’s administration pulled K-9s off the streets in 2009, it had been provided with data showing the number of apprehensions involving police dogs was increasing, an attorney for the city showed a courtroom Thursday morning.
Former Atlantic City police Chief John Mooney has sued his former employer claiming he was targeted for a demotion because he had been a whistle-blower. In one circumstance, he questioned the Langford administration’s decision to remove K-9s from the street. On Thursday, Mooney said he believed some concerns about the dogs were valid but others were politically motivated.
Attempting to show that the Langford administration was responding to a valid concern, William Lundsten, an attorney representing the city and former Public Safety Director Christine Petersen, questioned Mooney about a report showing that the number of arrests using a police dog jumped from five in the last five and a half months of 2007 to 41 in all of 2008. Within the first eight months of 2009, 31 arrests using police dogs had occurred.
The report Lundsten used in court did not provide direct year-over-year comparisons, but Lundsten argued that the Police Department was on pace for more than 41 K-9 apprehensions in 2009.
Lundsten asked Mooney if he believed the K-9 program deserved more scrutiny based upon those numbers.
“Not that there’s anything wrong with increasing rates. It could be a good thing,” he said.
Mooney said he saw no reason to examine the program more closely, but noted that he provided the summary information as requested to former Atlantic City Business Administrator Michael Scott. He concluded that the K-9 program was being handled properly. Data from a two-year period ending in August 2009, shows that of 77 K-9 apprehensions, no pattern of misconduct was found.
Each time a K-9 is used to apprehend a suspect, an Internal Affairs investigation is automatically triggered. None of those investigations resulted in findings of impropriety, according to documents shown in court Thursday.
A 34-year veteran of the Police Department, Mooney is suing for more than $435,000 and reinstatement as chief of police. He began testifying the afternoon of Sept. 20. Thursday marked his fourth full day of testimony. Questioning by defense council is expected to continue into Monday.
Scott, the city’s former business administrator, ordered Mooney to remove the dogs from the streets in the summer of 2009. At the time, Mooney repeatedly told The Press of Atlantic City that he believed the directives were a political attack on him and the Police Department. Langford at the time was pushing for greater control over the Police Department and later successfully lobbied City Council to re-create a public safety director position, which Petersen filled in March 2010.
In response to the city’s request that the dogs be removed from patrol, Atlantic County Prosecutor Ted Housel wrote to the administration requesting that the dogs still be allowed to be used to detect narcotics and explosives, stressing the importance of canines in those efforts.
Contact Jennifer Bogdan:
@ACPressJennifer on Twitter