Council to decide fate of officer who left police dog in car

Staff report

new castle, pa.

The fate of an officer whose police dog died in the back of a hot cruiser is now up to city council.

Police Chief Tom Sansone said that during an internal department investigation into how the accident happened, he and the mayor both agreed that Officer James Hoyland deserves more than 10 days’ suspension over the June 4 death of Chico, a 6-year-old Dutch shepherd that had been with the department for two years.

In agreeing to that, they went to the next step in the civil-service law process, which is to send Hoyland before the city council for a hearing, Sansone said.

The council must decide if he deserves up to 30 days’ suspension, or it can decide he should be fired.

“That’s the way the civil-service law is — I can give up to 10 days off, then city council has to take the next step,” he said.

Hoyland found the dog in the back of his cruiser, which was parked at the police station, after he came back from an extra 4-hour shift at city housing projects — he used a different vehicle for the special shift. The dog had been in the car from 4 p.m. to almost 8 p.m. Hoyland had left the car on with the air conditioning running, but it’s likely the air conditioning stopped working after two hours of idling, Sansone said.

K-9 cruisers are equipped with “hot boxes,” which sound an alarm and lower the windows if the car gets too hot. Sansone said an investigation showed the hot box was working properly, but it was unclear if it was turned on.

Hoyland rushed Chico to a vet, where he died.

Sansone said a criminal investigation by the district attorney is still going on. The district attorney estimates it may take another week, he said.

Hoyland has been on unpaid leave since June 5. If he ends up on a longer leave than council decides he should have, he will be paid for the difference, Sansone said.

If he’s terminated, he won’t get any back pay, he said.

If the district attorney charges Hoyland with a first-degree misdemeanor or a felony, he would be fired upon a conviction, Sansone said.

A date has not yet been set for the hearing, and it will be closed unless Hoyland requests it be open to the public, Sansone said.

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