Police in Vacaville, California have opened an internal investigation after a video of one of their officers seemingly pinning his K-9 partner to the ground and punching it in the face went viral online.
The video, which was filmed by a bystander, was posted online on Monday and appears to show the officer pinning the dog to the ground and hitting it in the face.
Robert Palomino, who recorded the footage, told The Vacaville Reporter that he was loading tools into his truck at a warehouse in Vaca Valley Parkway when he heard the dog yelping.
“It was crying like it was in pain, crying like someone ran over it or something,” he told the website.
Reluctant to confront the officer, Mr Palomino said he took out his phone and began recording the incident and later posted it online, hoping to bring attention to the incident.
He claimed that while the short clip only showed the officer hitting the dog once, he saw the dog get punched repeatedly before he began filming the clip.
“I was shocked. It got me completely confused. Never seen anything like that before,” he said. “He was beating his partner, his coworker, his best friend.”
The video quickly gained attention and sparked outrage on social media. In response, Vacaville police said they had opened an investigation into the incident.
Captain Matt Lydon told The Reporter that the department was alerted to the video on Monday and police said the investigation “is being evaluated in its entirety and will be investigated appropriately.”
“We understand how disturbing the video appears to many who view it and the range of emotions it creates,” they said in a statement.
However, the department also spoke in defence of the officer’s actions, saying that the video didn’t “show the moments prior when the canine became aggressive towards his handler.”
Captain Lydon told The Reporter that the dog had refused to give up its toy and after the officer retrieved it the K-9 lunged and attempted to bite him.
“Although our canines appear to be pets, just like the ones we all have at home; they are quite different in many ways,” police said in the post on Facebook.
The captain said that the officer, who has not been identified by police, had no prior experience as a K-9 handler reportedly said the pairing had only been together three or four months.
In a later update on their Facebook page on Monday, authorities said that the canine involved in this incident has been removed from the care of his handler pending a thorough and complete investigation into the incident.
They also stipulated that the “canine has been examined at a Veterinarian office and shows no sign of distress or injury.”
Mr Palomino told The Reporter that he just hoped the dog was OK and “gets a better partner at least.”
“I just keep thinking, what did the dog do to deserve that?” he asked. “Does anyone deserve that?”