Saginaw Police K-9s not allowed to apprehend suspects as policy changes

 Courtesy: The Saginaw Police Department / Facebook
Courtesy: The Saginaw Police Department / Facebook (WJRT)
Published: Jun. 8, 2020 at 5:07 PM EDT
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(6/8/2020) - The Saginaw Police Department is making a big change regarding the use of its K-9s.

The police dogs will no longer be used to apprehend suspects.

It's not clear at this point if the move is permanent, but it comes at a time when police departments re-evaluate how they interact with the communities they serve.

"I'm going to do something that I promised years ago that I would do. I am going to listen," said Saginaw Police Chief Bob Ruth on Friday.

He made that pledge at a rally Friday at the spot where Milton Hall was shot and killed by Saginaw police officers eight years ago. The mentally ill man, who had a knife, was shot in 2012 as police believed he was making a threatening move toward a K-9 officer and a police dog.

The county prosecutor at the time ruled there would be no criminal charges against the officers involved. Hall's death brought changes to the department's policies on mental health and use of force.

Eight years later, and in the midst of protests over the death of George Floyd, there appears to be another change.

Ruth has informed the police department that it will not use K-9's to apprehend suspects. The five police dogs can only be used for narcotic and bomb searches, tracking purposes and community engagement.

In February, Zane Blaisdell was shot and killed by police officers in his Saginaw home after Blaisdell stabbed a police dog in the head, who was in the home with his K-9 handler for a domestic violence situation.

The prosecutor's office ruled the two officers involved were justified in the shooting.

The Saginaw Valley K-9 Association, which does fundraising and covers expenses for police K-9s, had no comment on the change in the department's policy.

Ruth could not be reached for comment Monday. However, Saginaw City Manager Tim Morales released the following statement:

"Chief Ruth is currently reviewing several policies at the Saginaw Police Department. In light of recent events across the country, the review by the Chief is necessary and welcomed. Saginaw strives to be an open, diverse, welcoming community and we want all citizens in the city to feel safe. I am aware of changes the Chief has already made. While I don't believe any final decisions have been made, I support the current directives issued by Chief Ruth."