Trooper caught on tape is back in court

January 6, 2010 5:56:45 PM PST
A former state trooper, fired after being caught on video kicking his K-9 partner, is once again fighting to get back on the force.Although two state agencies have said former trooper Charles Jones should get his job back, the Highway Patrol has appealed.

In the video, Jones was seen kicking the feet out from under his K-9 partner, Richoh, after the dog refused to let go of a toy during a training session.

The dog was tied to a deck railing with his front feet off the ground.

As bad as it may have appeared, an administrative law judge - who is also a dog lover - ruled that the Highway Patrol did not use proper procedure to fire Jones.

"This case was the perfect storm of bad timing for Charles Jones," Jones' attorney Jack O'Hale said.

O'Hale told a superior court judge in Raleigh Wednesday that the incident happened amid several scandals that rocked the Highway Patrol and during the height of the Michael Vick dog abuse investigation.

The decision to fire Jones, he says, was purely political.

He told the judge that other patrol dog handlers testified in the administrative law hearing that Jones' technique, while unorthodox, was not any worse than techniques they had used.

But an assistant state attorney general argued otherwise, saying Jones violated the Highway Patrol's general policy on unacceptable conduct.

"We shouldn't have to have a policy that says you can't string up a dog and kick him while he's hanging by his neck," Assistant Attorney General Tamara Zmuda said. "We also don't have a policy that says you can't shoot a dog."

Judge Jim Hardin says he will review the entire case and rule in the next few weeks.

A representative of the North Carolina Police Benevolent Association says that decision will be important beyond Jones' case.

"If you throw every officer into the position of Trooper Jones, we're not going to have any police officers left to protect or citizens," John Midgette said.

No matter what the judge decides, either party could appeal his decision as well.

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