Beaver Borough Patrolman Jeffrey Wijnen-Riems and his K-9 partner Czar exhibited a lack of proper training and decision making during a controversial arrest from last year captured on police dash cam video, according to experts in the use of police dogs. The Beaver Countian spoke with experienced K-9 trainers not involved in the case, who believe a lack of competency effectively led to an excessive use of force against the suspect while placing the officer and his police dog at unnecessary risk.

Officer Wijnen-Riems testified during the trial of James Edward Cicco that following a brief, low-speed pursuit of the suspect in August of 2016, he deployed his K-9 to help him extract Cicco from his vehicle after the man allegedly resisted arrest and grabbed for a drill (charges dismissed by a judge in pretrial hearings).

According to Kyle Heyen, a court certified expert with more than 35 years of experience training K-9s, the problems with the traffic stop began even before Officer Wijnen-Riems made a decision to deploy a police dog to extract Cicco from his vehicle — something Heyen insists should not be done in any situation.

Heyen is a former law enforcement officer and founder of Detector Dogs International, a company that has trained dogs and their handlers for state and municipal law enforcement agencies across the country, as well as for the U.S. Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance Program, U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Immigration Inspections, and the U.S. Department of Defense.

“In all of my years of being a professional trainer, I have never trained a dog handler to use his animal to remove a suspect from a vehicle, because quite frankly, it’s a stupid thing to do,” said Heyen.

“If this is a normal traffic stop, you ask to see the man’s license and registration,” continued Heyen. “From an officer survival perspective, if you are on what you believe to be a high risk stop, you should be using the standards that have been in place since the 1970s that continue to be used today. You maintain your distance, you maintain your cover, you wait for backup if you can, and you get on your loud speaker. Driver, roll down your window, do it now. Driver, turn off your vehicle, do it now. Driver, drop your keys outside of your window… do it now.”

Heyen said his review of the dash cam video showed Officer Wijnen-Riems did not follow any standard protocol he was aware of, but instead engaged in a series of actions that dramatically escalated the situation, putting everyone at the scene in greater danger.

( WATCH: Beaver Police Dash Cam Video Shows Officer Deploying K-9 During Arrest Of James Edward Cicco (Warning Graphic) )

“This officer didn’t do any of the things we would expect,” said Heyen. “You can see on the video he walked right up to the vehicle within seconds, opened the driver’s door, and just started tugging on the suspect while he still had his seat belt on. Then the officer walked away, turning his back to a man who he alleges just tried to attack him with a drill, and goes to get his dog. Then you see him walking right back up to the door again and open it back up […] You can see the suspect has his hands up in the vehicle at this point, but the officer then sends his dog into that small enclosed environment where there is a man he claims has a weapon in the form of a drill. The officer is there at the vehicle grabbing at the suspect at the same time. What’s the point of all of that? If the suspect turned out to have a gun what do you think could have happened to the animal and the officer?”

Michael Gould, who is also a court certified expert and a dog trainer with more than 30 years of experience, agreed that police dogs should not be used to extract a suspect from a vehicle. Rather than analyzing dash cam video of the arrest, Gould spoke to the Beaver Countian in broader terms of the proper use of dogs in law enforcement.

Gould was a founding member of the NYPD’s canine unit, a United States Navy Law Enforcement Certified Instructor, and a Certified Canine Trainer and Examiner of Police Patrol Dogs for the New York State Bureau of Municipal Police. He started his own K-9 consulting firm after retiring from law enforcement as a command officer with the Nassau County Police Department. Gould was one of the first to deploy K-9 teams to Ground Zero following the September 11th terrorist attacks. He is also the founder of Hounds Town USA.

Michael Gould noted a practical problem with sending a police dog to a driver’s side door.

“We don’t send dogs to driver compartments of cars to extract suspects, we just don’t do it,” said Gould. “That’s like using a hammer when you should be using a screwdriver, it is not only a bad decision it’s patently absurd. You’re ordering a suspect to get out of the vehicle, then you’re placing a trained attack dog between the suspect and where you just ordered him to be. This makes compliance impossible, you just can’t do that. You’re putting the dog and the suspect in a lose-lose situation […] When human beings get bitten by a dog they are going to react, they are going to resist that, they’re going to pull away from the dog, it is a natural physical response. Professional K-9 handlers are trained to know that. Expecting a person not to resist when their flesh is getting torn by a dog is absurd. It is patently absurd to send a dog in a vehicle because a man has a weapon. Even if the suspect had a gun in the car you’re not going to send your K-9 there after him. This is a no-brainer.”

Officer Wijnen-Riems testified during the trial that after his K-9 partner Czar latched onto James Cicco, it did not disengage from biting the man because he was continuing to move.

“As long as the suspect is moving, the dog is not going to release,” Wijnen-Riems told the jury.

Officer Wijnen-Riems’ testimony is contrary to well-established standards which require properly trained police dogs to disengage from a suspect immediately upon a verbal command by its handler, according to both Heyen and Gould.

Kyle Heyen said his review of the dash cam video shows the officer and his dog both have an incorrect understanding of how to disengage a suspect following deployment.

“What you’re seeing on the video, the pulling at the dog’s collar while he’s biting the suspect, that is really only seen as a training technique used to help a new dog build its confidence, to build its bite,” said Heyen. “This is something you do periodically in training to help maintain a dog’s deep, full-mouth-pressure bite. But this is a technique that you never use on the street, and it is not a technique used to disengage a suspect for several important reasons. First is officer survival, you are now engaging directly with the suspect so why are you even bothering to use the dog? The officer should be stepping back 20 feet, ordering the dog from there, creating a buffer of space necessary for officer safety. Secondly, when you’re using this as a technique to disengage, the dog isn’t going to learn to let go it’s going to learn to bite down even harder — you can actually see the dog doing this on the video. This leads to the third major problem, you’re going to end up inflicting more serious injuries to the person being bitten.”

“The act of physically removing a dog from a bite is contrary to every certification, a dog that does not disengage on verbal command is a dog that should not be on the streets,” concluded Heyen.

Michael Gould agreed that well trained police dogs release on verbal command and if they fail to do so they are unfit for service as a bite dog.

“Properly trained police dogs respond to all verbal commands and that must include the command to release, the command to disengage,” said Gould. “If the dog is not releasing on command then you do not have proper control of your dog, so you end up using excessive force against a suspect, by that I mean force which is no longer necessary to get the suspect to comply.”

Kyle Heyen said another serious problem he saw while reviewing the dash cam video was the second deployment of the K-9 that occurred following Cicco being handcuffed by Officer Wijnen-Riems.

“The officer alleges that the suspect kicked the dog, which led the dog to engage,” said Heyen. “I don’t see that happening on this video but let’s assume that it did. A dog will defend itself and a dog will defend its handler, that’s perfectly ok, but a dog can not attack a suspect that has been secured into custody.”

Heyen said several very basic techniques and protocols should have prevented the second unnecessary deployment from ever occurring.

“If the suspect did kick the dog that means the dog was within reach of the suspect,” said Heyen. “That’s an error by the handler. That dog should have been back in its patrol vehicle after the handler took the dog away physically the first time. If it is being kept out of the vehicle for some reason, a safe distance is to place the dog about 15 feet away from the suspect. You order the dog into a controlled position. Sit is not good, down is better, because it takes a fraction of a second longer for the dog to motivate, which gives the handler a fraction of a second longer to control the situation. This is the next major error by the handler. You can see he placed his dog behind him, having it to his back where he can’t see what the dog is going to do. That’s not how handlers are trained […] Now we are back to where we were before, with the dog biting the suspect and again refusing to properly disengage.”

Michael Gould said that while some smaller police agencies continue to implement dogs trained in bite work, almost as something of a novelty, many larger departments with more established K-9 programs have actually been phasing out the tactic.

“Back thirty years ago when departments were putting dogs on their forces we were using them as a kind of voice activated tool to apprehend fleeing felons who were a danger to the public,” said Gould. “But since then we have learned a lot and there have been a lot of advances in technology — the taser as one example — that are making the use of dogs to attack suspects less and less popular. A dog’s real value is its nose and that is where we are focusing our training as an industry.”

Kyle Heyen agreed, and said he is starting to see more small police agencies requesting detection-only dogs for their departments.

“There is an unwritten standard in the industry that for each discipline, 4 hours of maintenance training is required per week,” said Heyen. “So if a dog is trained to do both detection and apprehension, that’s a total of 8 hours of training per week, that’s an entire shift for the handler — a big burden on a small department. Having a dog that does bite work takes things to another level from a continued training perspective, because now you need a second person who knows what they’re doing to work 4 hours per week as an attack decoy for the handler […] For smaller departments none of this makes any sense.”

Heyen said some communities he has seen attempt to take shortcuts around the 4 hour standard by gathering groups of K-9s from an area to train together.

“Each dog should have 4 hours of training work being done per week per discipline,” said Heyen. “It should not be 15 dogs meeting together once a week for 4 hours.”

The trial of James Edward Cicco ended in a mistrial this month, with the jury foreman telling the Beaver Countian he would never agree to find the defendant guilty of the charges remaining against him in light what he witnessed on the dash cam video. District Attorney David Lozier has told the press he will not likely seek a second trial in the case. Attorneys for Cicco have notified Beaver Borough of their intention to file a federal civil rights lawsuit as a result of the encounter.

District Attorney Lozier has said an investigation by the Pennsylvania State Police into the incident found no wrongdoing by Officer Jeffrey Wijnen-Riems. K-9 Czar remains on active duty. The Beaver Borough Police Department has not commented publicly about the incident.

John Paul
John Paul is the founder of the Beaver Countian. He reports full-time for the site, specializing in investigative journalism with an emphasis on public corruption.

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Raven
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Raven

No thanks to the Beaver public who chose to vote Tom Hamilton into the office of Mayor once again. That was your ONLY chance of firing this cop and ridding the borough of a serious problem.

In my opinion:

Stonewall Lozier slanders some people in open court whom he claims have a conspiracy against him and the justice system, because they tried to find out about this matter through the dashcam video release to inform the public. The State Police, unexplainably, found no wrongdoing, or maybe just illegality, in the stop. Mayor Tom Hamilton will not fire this cop; he is weak and ineffective. Chief Madgar won’t fire him. Sergeant Ken McCoy would not seek his termination. Beaver Town Council is too weak and ineffective to fire the cop. The cop himself will not quit or even go on a suspension. The dog will keep terrorizing suspected perps or anyone he is sicked on.

Until someone gets killed.

So, it’s on you, Beaver. I hope the malpractice insurance is paid up to date, because this is going to be a big payday, after the Federal civil rights lawsuit.

Now, the responsibility is YOURS. It is on you.

Thanks…thanks for nothing.

FF84
Member
FF84

What I do not understand is that the PA State Police saw this (or did they) the DA saw this and the Beaver Police chief saw this, and by their viewing of this, they found nothing wrong? Are they watching something that is different that everyone else is watching? Talk about a cover up, if that dog would have taken a bite at his neck we would be talking about a murder that was caught on video! Good Luck to the people of Beaver, hope nobody gets pulled over for a traffic violation when this guy is on duty!!!!

Gray Squirrel
Member
Gray Squirrel

I believe if someone is unfortunate to be pulled over in Beaver, the driver should stop right where they’re at, right in the middle of the street, 3rd street if it might be , lock the door an roll the window down 3 to 4 inches , there’s no rule that says you must roll the window down all the way, just enough to pass Documents through the window opening. DEMAND a Supervisor on scene , you fear for your safety .
If asked to move the vehicle to the right out of the road way, say no ! you don’t want to be accused of fleeing an eluding , thus having a k-9 attack you, ( the Beaver Police set the Precedence/ Standards for this )

Civil Disobedience is whats needed to get a point across !!
Courage is not the lack of fear, but the ability to stand up an face it !!
As a former U.S Marine , Country boy born an raised it was instilled in me to fight fire with fire , Live by the Sword Die by the Sword .
I think We the People should set a date in the near future to have a Public Protest in front of the Beaver Police Station Demanding the Firing /Resignation of Jeffrey Wijnen-Riems for the safety of the Public .

“Your chance today right now is to do justice, and justice is nothing more than a divide on the highway where there comes an intersection between the truth and the ability to do something about it.”

FormerCo
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FormerCo

I would attend. Especially now that the undercover car has been seen around town instead of the marked cruiser.

Jt
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Jt

This guy has to go. I would be afraid to live in beaver.

You're NOT fired!
Guest
You're NOT fired!

Or Industry or Vanport or Bridgewater (back-up assistance from BPD).

This asshat will never be fired! Ask to resign, yes. But fired? No.

From what I understand, if a police officer gets “FIRED” in the state of PA, that person cannot work as a police officer in the state of PA anymore. Does anybody know if that is true? If it is, then you know why none of these asshats get “fired”. They just move from dept to dept.

Gray Squirrel
Member
Gray Squirrel

Remember less than 2 years ago when the Patrolman from Ohioville was fired when his Duty weapon went off in the police station when he was cleaning it, then hired a few days later in Bridgewater only to be fired again for having Inappropriate contact with a teenage girl.

If he is fire , he will appealed to an arbitrator and his chances of getting his job back are good, thus the Chief an Mayor will need to pressure him to Resign .

Having the state take his Bond to be a Police Officer is the only way ?
Cicco will be suing under U.S.C title 18. 1983 242 lawsuit . along with U.S Constitution Civil rights 4th, 8th, 14th

I believe Beaver better find its check book an pay the Fiddler his Due …..
the check book should be easy to find, its under Jeffrey Wijnen-Riems file ..

WTF
Guest
WTF

Macho Power trip indeed… The officer and unfortunately the dog both need to go… This officer is on a power trip… has major anger issues and basically is a narcissistic yoyo. Im sorry but given the track record of this officer its time for discipline. He can not keep getting away with this crap and costing the tax payers 100s of thousands of dollars. He needs help whether he realizes it or not there is something terribly wrong with him as a human being. his method of thinking rationally does not exist… Its as if he gets off on it… ??? I have respect for all people in a capacity to protect and serve we citizens whether it be military, police, judges or what. But Im sorry I have no respect for this officer… He in my opinion is a menace and needs to go. Just sayin

FF84
Member
FF84

The next time Beaver Police pull’s this guy over he will be driving a BMW or a Porsche, Thanks to SUPER COP officer Wijnen-Riems, I hope this guy sends the Beaver Council, the Mayor and police chief a thank you letter for his life changing event for that evening!!
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