Miami-Dade Police Dog Handler on Trial

In June 2006, a group of Miami-Dade police k-9 handlers were having a training session with their dogs.  Sgt. Allen Cockfield, an experienced handler, was participating with his new dog Duke.  During that training session, Mr. Cockfield kicked Duke to death in front of the other officers.  He has since been fired by the department.

A year long investigation followed the killing and in 2007, Mr. Cockfield was charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty and a felony count of killing a police dog.  The trial opened this week and the case is being prosecuted by Miami-Dade prosecutor Isis Perez:

Perez told jurors that Duke was not obeying commands. Enraged, Cockfield picked the dog up by the leash, leaving the canine hanging from his choke collar, she said.

That’s when Cockfield delivered three to five kicks, all witnessed by a slew of fellow officers, she said.

Miami-Dade K-9 Officer Andy Giordani, testifying first, held up a black leash and chain collar to mimic what he saw, booting the wooden jury box with loud, fierce thumps.

As Cockfield let Duke slip to the ground, Giordani looked away briefly, then looked back when he heard “a moan.”

“He stiffened his hind legs, shaking as he was going into some sort of seizure, and a few seconds later he became numb, and that was it,” Giordani said of Duke.

The defense paints a different picture – that Mr. Cockfield felt threatened by Duke and was trying to save himself.  And that the kicks were “soft” because, as the attorney points out:

“How much leverage can you have when you’re holding a 70-pound dog?”

My interpretation of the defense’s version of events is that Mr. Cockfield strung Duke up by the neck and then, while the slip chain choked him, softly kicked him until he died.

For the record, if you ever feel threatened by a dog while you are in a group of police k-9 handlers, you can consider your life “saved” once you’ve got the dog strung up.  Surely your fellow officers will quickly intervene to prevent the dog from killing you.  No need to kick the dog to death – softly or otherwise.

Not that I’m inclined to believe the defense, mind you.  But I’m not on the jury.  The trial is set to resume today.

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10 Comments

  1. Donna Lake

     /  July 28, 2010

    Why would his “fellow officers” stand by and let him do this without trying to stop him ??????? Maybe today someone will come in with steel toe shoes and a choke collar and get close enough to use it on him with a swift kick to go with it….

    Reply
  2. mikken

     /  July 28, 2010

    Um, yeah. This is the sort of guy you want “protecting and serving”.

    You would expect dog handlers to know better, but my neighbor considers himself an “expert” because he trained dogs for the army. I wouldn’t let this guy dogsit for my guys for a single day…

    I wonder if they conducted a post-mortem on Duke?

    Reply
    • The article led me to believe the necropsy was conducted by a medical examiner which is another point the defense attorney is using to dispute the facts – contending the ME is not fit to determine cause of death in a dog. I suppose we are to believe “it was just Duke’s time” and he died of natural causes while being choked and kicked by the accused.

      Reply
  3. Donna, he was a Sargent, with 20 years experience (sic) as a canine handler. Perhaps that also contributed to a year-long investigation. If any had interceded then, their career would probably have ended there.

    What he did, however, is neither useful in training, nor is it effective in protecting yourself, as I’ve worked with many large and aggressive dogs. Dogs which did not have any of the training of these.

    No, what he did is an expression of frustration. Not at the dog, but at his inability to control him. Probably a result of only a year’s experience, repeated 20 times… And never did he ever learn the simple truth: the dog is always right.

    Reply
  4. Carolyn Greer

     /  July 29, 2010

    I really feel kicking the dog,whether the dog is uncontrollable or not, is completely uncalled for. Wasnt there another option than for this officer to keep handling the dog which seems clearly was not working well with him or just not cut out for K9 cop training. As an owner of two dogs myself, although smaller breeds, I really do not like what I’ve heard about this officer kicking the dog that way!!! Did he bite or attack the officer, it just seems to me that there should have been another option for this officer and the dog Duke. I feel the physical acts against the dog contributed to the animal’s death. I’m appalled at what was done to this dog(the way it was cruelly beaten on)!! Im an animal cruelty organization donor and I really hope this officer is no where near an animal or canine unit dog again if he remains a police officer. It really sounds awful kicking this dog the way it was told and I hope its the last time!!! The conflict is that I support police officers and K9 cop units with what they do to protect our communities, and I’m also an animal activist against animal cruelty at the same time!!

    Reply
  5. d

     /  August 8, 2010

    what goes around, comes around.

    Reply
  6. IOANNIS KOYTSOYFHS

     /  November 7, 2010

    DISGUSTING! I HOPE HE WAS FIRED AND PROSECUTED TO THE FULL EXTENT OF THE LAW!!!

    Reply
  7. Did a search on the SunSentinel to see if there was any update. As often happens, nothing new. However, there IS something old…in October of 2007.

    http://www.squidoo.com/Police_Sergeant_Kills_K9

    This is the SAME officer Cockfield. While both dogs were named Duke, one is a German Shepherd and the other a Belgian Malinois, both of which were kicked to death.

    Reply
  8. ezbuddy

     /  November 7, 2011

    I know this story is one year old, but as the one year anniversary it STILL pisses me off.

    Memphis has had numerous cases of police killing dogs, one of which I knew the girl who had her dog shot with no more provacation than a bark, while he was on a leash, held by her, standing at a stop light, panhandling. There was no justification for killing her 40 lb. mix dog. She was heart broken, as expected, but the officers are ALWAYS excused.

    Another case of a family on vacation, passing through Memphis, was stopped on the expressway. The family Irish Setter dog in the car barked, as can be expected, and was promptly shot & killed. The car wasn’t even the right car police were looking for. There was a whole FAMILY in the car when bullets went flying. Again, officer excused. A law suit followed from the tourist, but I don’t know how that worked out.

    Reply

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