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Officer to Move After GHI Votes Against His K-9 Kennel

The kennel issue pitted neighbor complaints and animal rights advocates’ concerns against a police officer’s dream to live in Greenbelt, while serving in its K-9 program.

After the . Board of Directors voted against an officer's request for a K-9 kennel at its last regular meeting, the president of the Greenbelt Fraternal Order of Police, wrote, “Your decision last night was a huge black eye to the members of the Greenbelt FOP.”

 “We’re just disheartened by it,“ said Michael Apgar, the Greenbelt FOP president, on Tuesday.

“Courageous… the Board is to be respected!” exclaimed GHI resident Barbara Stevens in an interview Tuesday night.

Partisans on both sides were equally impassioned about the board’s Jan. 26 decision to deny the request of GHI resident, Officer Robert Defibaugh, to place a kennel in his yard for a police K-9 dog. The kennel is a requirement for the officer to enter the Greenbelt Police Department’s K-9 training program.

The kennel issue pitted neighbor complaints and animal rights advocates’ concerns against a police officer’s dream to live in Greenbelt, while serving on its highly commended K-9 program.

GHI resident Jean Newcomb described her experience living near one of the three previous GHI K-9s in a letter to the board.

“I live in a neighboring court and have already experienced what it is like to have a kenneled K-9 living close by,” Newcomb said. “When walking past the yard with a very aggressive, large attack dog, I feared he would break out.”

Bob Snyder, who lives near Defibaugh, told the board he was concerned about the location of the kennel, as Defibaugh’s yard is adjacent to a public sidewalk.

The board voted 7-0 against Defibaugh building the housing for a kennel. Laura Moore and Irv Wartell were not present during the vote. Moore had stepped down from the GHI Board of Directors prior to the meeting.

Defibaugh took actions to move to College Park after the vote, according to Apgar. The people in College Park are welcoming him and saying they’d love to have an officer in the neighborhood, Apgar said.

Apgar’s letter to the board said having Defibaugh move out of the city made him sick. “The fact that a Greenbelt Police officer is forced to move out of the city so that he can have a K-9, to be used in the community that did not want him here, is an absolute tragedy.”

“Given the concerns of neighbors and other members, a K-9 kennel does not seem to be a good fit for the community," GHI Board President Tokey Boswell stated in an email to Patch explaining the board’s decision. “K-9 kennels have been tried in GHI in the past, and the experiment has failed,” he added. 

On the other hand, Defibaugh relocated to GHI more than five years ago with the intention of applying for a spot on the Greenbelt Police Department’s K-9 force as soon as one became open, according to Apgar. K-9 officers have lived in Greenbelt in the past, Apgar said, adding that if GHI had told them the rules had changed, Defibaugh would have never moved into the neighborhood.

Eldon Ralph, General Manager of GHI, explained in an interview on Wednesday that GHI does not have a rule concerning kennels, which are treated as "accessory buildings" and require board permission. 

Although in the past, GHI granted an officer permission to house a kennel on Gardenway, in that case, Ralph did not recall residents voicing concerns to the board about it. But this time around, they did. The board has to take members' concerns into consideration, he said.

At GHI’s meeting, Board Member David Morse explored whether the kennel exception could be granted on a trial basis, reserving the right for the board to revoke permission if it did not work out.

Cpl. Robert Musterman, with the Greenbelt Police Department, told the board that such a contingency arrangement would not work. If an officer was accepted into the program and the board reversed its decision, he or she would be forced to move, he explained.

Other GHI residents, including members of GHI’s Companion Animal Committee, expressed concerns at the meeting about how K-9s were trained, especially when it came to the use of kenneling and the potential to use shock collars to train a dog not to bark. Some saw the method as inhumane.

Musterman affirmed that shock collars were one of several short-term methods employed to train K-9s.

“It is not electrocution,” he explained, “it is stimulation.”

While Defibaugh affirmed that he would keep his dog in the house when not on duty, Musterman admitted that there was nothing in the training rules or guidelines to require an officer to do so.

Newcomb, however, thinks it’s inhumane. In the case of a K-9 that is trained to be aggressive and bark, it becomes confused when it barks at people walking by its kennel and is shocked, according to Newcomb.

Despite some police union members’ disappointment with the decision, Apgar affirmed police officers' commitment to serve the city.

"We don’t hate GHI. We’re not angry men with guns,” he said on Wednesday, speaking for the union members he represents.

If the police have a K-9 working and a robbery occurs on Hillside, the neighborhood that Defibaugh is departing, Apgar said, “We’re going to show up. That’s what we do.”

No registration is required to take the poll below, just a mouse click.

Bailey Henneberg contributed to this article.

tcmitssr February 02, 2012 at 06:41 PM
Perhaps the next poll should be "Which has the more incompetent leadership, the Greenbelt City Council or the GHI Board of Directors?"
Terpalum98 February 02, 2012 at 07:03 PM
"Courageous! The board is to be be respected" The definition of courage is to face danger in spite of fear. What is the board afraid of? The police? A barking dog? Why would you be afraid of them? You think it is courageous to make a decision so you don't have to listen to a barking dog? Wow, that is pretty sad. Courageous is going into a building when you know there is someone hiding with a gun, or following someone through the woods that just did an armed robbery at a store or who just ran out the back door to your house as you were walking in the front door. That is what a police K9 is used for, and that is what Officer Defibaugh would be doing when you call the police. That is what courageous is. Not making a decision to maintain their perceived quality of life. You need to learn the difference. Ever heard on the term "NIMBY"? Not In My Back Yard. Sounds like you want the best police services possible, but you can't live here. Nice. I am a resident of College Park, and say your loss is our gain.
Water drinker February 02, 2012 at 07:26 PM
It sounds like the GHI meeting turned into an issue on police dog training and had nothing to do with the kennel placement. I would say that GHI has no business being involved in police dog training.The decision should be based on the home owners request to let the City place a kennel in his yard. They have approved every other request, why not this one? If a barking dog was the issue, get rid of every single one of them in GHI. You premonition that a dog that this officer does not have yet will bark constantly is irrational. However if you do have a crystal ball and do know the future why are you not buying lottery tickets instead of trying to keep police officers out of your neighborhood with your magical powers? To the animal companion people who showed up and complained they felt police training was “inhumane” I ask this: How many of you have ever trained a police dog, or even watched a police dog being trained? That’s right, go ahead and say it, it’s ok. You are completely ignorant on the subject. You should ask questions if you want to know, not repeat what you heard from “some guy” or your brothers friends who have friends that are k-9 cops who swear they treat their dogs inhumanly, that’s crap and everyone knows it. Nice going GHI!
MFine February 02, 2012 at 07:58 PM
I'd like to clarify that concern for the dog(s) is not solely that of "animal rights advocates" but is a matter of concern to all who care about animal welfare. Confining a dog to a kennel, potentially continually, as Captain Musterman acknowledged is a possibility, would be adverse to the well-being of the dog and problematic to neighbors and passing pedestrians. The use of shock collars is also a very valid concern. The statement that it is not a matter of "electrocution" but "stimulation" is alarming. Researchers writing in Applied Animal Behaviour Science concluded: "Shocks received during training are not only unpleasant but also painful and frightening...Apart from the acute pain and fear, these expectations may influence the dog’s well being in the long term in a negative way." These devices have actually been banned elsewhere. See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shock_collar#Criticism and: http://eldri.ust.is/media/ljosmyndir/dyralif/Trainingdogswithshockcollar.pdf The GHI Board voted in the best interests of Greenbelt residents, including canine ones, and for that they should be applauded.
Will Johnson February 02, 2012 at 08:46 PM
Evidently there are quite a few people that are ignorant to facts when it comes to police K-9s. Police K-9s are some of the highest trained dogs on the face of the planet. These K-9s are not as aggressive as you think they are. They will protect themselves, their handler and the CITIZENS just as any other officer would be expected to do. They are also trained to only be aggressive when their handler commands them. What has also been left out of all of this is what kind of training the dog would be getting. The K-9 might not even be trained as a patrol dog (which means drug search, item search, bomb detection, cadaver search, tracking and bite work), not all police K-9s are trained to do bite work. As for barking? Is Officer Defibaugh's (possible) K-9 the only dog that would live in that area or do other people have regular untrained dogs that also bark when someone walks by their yard? In almost 15 years of law enforcement, I have had more "citizen dogs" bark and show aggressions towards me than police trained K-9s not to mention that I have been bitten by "citizen" dogs on numerous occassions yet I have never been bitten by a police K-9 (and yes, I am around police K-9s all of the time). Most often than not, police K-9s only bark when someone they are unfamiliar with comes within close proximity to them and it is a warning to not come any closer. Continued to next post:
Will Johnson February 02, 2012 at 08:47 PM
I guess police K-9s are not expected to warn and protect themselves if someone approaches them that they do not know, maybe the citizens of Greenbelt should be held to the same standard as the police K-9. I find the ruling of the board to not only be disgraceful and discriminatory but also a huge slap in the face of every police K-9 that puts their live's on the line every day just as any other officer does. These "dogs" finds the drugs that kill our kids everyday, they find the murders that run from the law, the burglars that robs citizens of their property and innocence. I bet that if a citizen who supported this decision had a family member murdered or abducted they would gladly welcome one or more of these K-9s into their neighborhood to find the offender or their loved one. Essentially GHI is saying that they do not support the officers that live within their community because that police K-9 is a LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER just as their human counterparts are. Next thing that will happen is that the GHI will want to ban the use of police, fire and EMS sirens from being used because they are too loud and it will disturb them.
Will Johnson February 02, 2012 at 08:48 PM
I know Officer Defibaugh and more than once he has tried to recruit me to move to Greenbelt and join their police department and he always bragged about how great the citizens of Greenbelt are and how supportive they are. I am glad I never did and congratulations GHI for slapping him in the face with your decision, I wonder if he still feels the same because if he doesn’t then I can’t say that I would blame him. I bet every police K-9 and their handler around the world would feel the same way, even those K-9s and handlers that have given their lives (and there are many) to protect the same people that votes like this against them.
Mike Kelley February 02, 2012 at 09:06 PM
Officer Defibaugh will be happier in College Park. If that doesn't work out, please come join me in Berwyn Heights.
Water drinker February 02, 2012 at 09:47 PM
As for the survey that goes along with this article....who said the dog would be "living" in the kennel? I think it is a place to put the dog when you have company ect. All the K-9 officers I know have the dog live in the house and they get put in the kennel so they don't have to worry about the dog escaping from the yard on a nice day. I see the Greenbelt Animal shelter and P.G county shelter are full of dogs that belong to the careless owners that DON'T have kennels to make sure their dogs don't get out. Maybe GHI should REQUIRE kennels for Companion Animals people who don't care enough about their dogs to keep them secure and not running lose in traffic and getting run over. I have seen my share of dead dogs on the side of the road, I guess that is what they are trying to accomplish.
tcmitssr February 02, 2012 at 10:24 PM
I am confident that he is more than welcome, along with his canine partner, in any of the single family home areas of Greenbelt. IMHO, GHI has embarrassed itself and the City of Greenbelt by it's actions. Every member of GHI who opposed Officer Defibaugh should think twice the next time they call the Police Department for assistance. Every officer, human or canine, that responds comes prepared to lay down their lives for GHI's residents. The GHI Board should do the only honorable action left to it, besides apologize to Officer Defibaugh and the F.O.P. They should inform Chief Craze that they only want human officers to respond to calls from any GHI residence. (LOL! because we know that will never happen). Discrimination against a police officer because it is a canine officer. Perhaps GHI should consider opting out of protective services from the City of Greenbelt and employ its own security force moving forward.
tcmitssr February 02, 2012 at 10:30 PM
I would welcome any officer, of any Police Department, and his or her canine partner as my next door neighbor without hesitation. What community would be so short-sighted as to not want a neighbor and his co-worker, both police officials, as members of "their community," which GHI certainly gives signs, IMHO, of not being as "all-inclusive" as it says it is?
robert snyder February 02, 2012 at 11:20 PM
Judging by recent comments, its amazing how this issue has easily become distorted into GHI vs. a police officer. Most comentators (above) have not been informed on the facts of this case. The primary concern we neighbors had was the LOCATION of the proposed K-9 kennel. For confidentiality the address of the proposed kennel will remain unidentified here, but it was to be in the gardenside yard of an end unit next to a busy sidewalk on busy Hillside Rd. where many residents walk. This is also a sidewalk used by a number of elem. school children that walk to and from Greenbelt Elem.School. Also, last year a formal complaint letter had been sent to the GHI admin. that the member was careless with his own 2 companion dogs, one a German Shepard. The dogs would bark, snarl and chase people who were walking their leashed dogs along Hillside Rd. Fortunately a standard 3 & 1/2 ft. chain link fence separated them. This would go on for 30 min. or longer wthout any family member calling out to the dogs, calling them in. There seemed to be little interest in or attempt to train or discipline them. So naturally some neighbors (self included) were concerned when we were informed that there could be a kennel here with an additional dog. No, its not GHI 'dumping' on a police officer, it was about the location being inappropriate and too public. The elem. school children come first.!
Will Johnson February 02, 2012 at 11:33 PM
Was a spec sheet submitted to the board in regards to this kennel? Most agencies require that the housing be chain link no shorter than 6' in height and covered securely, a lock must be on the entry/exit door at all times and set in 6 inches of concrete and located far enough away that a passerby can not extend any body part into the kennel itself. So according to the above post there would also be an additional 3-4 in place as well which has adaquately secured 2 other dogs in the past.
Old Towner February 03, 2012 at 12:07 AM
I was at the meeting and I believe he stated that when he received the complaint with his companion animals he said he immediately remedied the concern with his companion animals. I believe he also said he obtained signed statements from his immediate neighbors (all but 1 or 2 agreed), which is something that was not even required to ensure they understood what, where and why he was trying to place the kennel. In my opinion the meeting was SUPPOSE to be about the STRUCTURE, not the animal and its POSSIBLE behavior. In addition I think it's wrong to judge this officer on the actions of past officers. If there was a concern with past officers, was it even brought to the police department's attention to be addressed?
Terpalum98 February 03, 2012 at 01:07 AM
I guess Officer Defibaugh's yard is the only yard with dogs in it with a sidewalk next to it. Since you were his neighbor, did you, or any of you concerned neighbors go over and talk to Officer Defibaugh about this? I'm sure you knew he was a cop. And was the behavior corrected once this formal letter was sent to GHI and GHI, I assume, contacted Officer Defibaugh? Or did these concerns go unregarded by officer Defibaugh. A lot of concerns can be addressed informally by something as simple as a conversation with someone, without formal letters. I am sure that he would have addressed your concerns. I have had similar experiances with one of my neighbors several years ago. His dog barked all the time. I went over one day and talked to him about it, and he appologized and corrected the situation. Hence the dog stopped barking. That simple. No need to make a mountain out of a molehill. I just think that you guys should think outside the box here, and see what an asset to the neighborhood this is. In addition, you should educate yourselves on the police K9 program to see how things really work. In the absence of facts, people tend to make their own assumptions. Sounds like a lot of uninformed people live in Greenbelt.
Jerri February 03, 2012 at 02:26 AM
i agree that the methods used to train these dogs is rather tough, but ............... if some one had just commited a crime against you and the K9 was brought out to your aid would you want it to lick the person to death ?or go for the balls ....the choice is yours xx
Will Johnson February 03, 2012 at 03:08 AM
I would also agree that there are sOme neighborhood benefits to any officer living nearby. When a house goes uP for sale in my neighborhood they use the fact of my police cruiser parked in the driveway as a selling point that what could be a safer neighborhood than one that has an officer living in it. Not to mention that if your yard adjoins the officers yard with a K-9 in it, do you thing a burglar is going to try and go thru there?
Donald Comis February 03, 2012 at 03:22 AM
At the meeting it was stated that the architectural committee, assigned to look at the structure issues, referred it to the companion animals committee to look at the broader issues beyond the structure. There were concerns about the officer's two dogs. But, let's look at one of the cases cited at that meeting. My friend Andy Levine had his dog attacked by Cpl. Musterman's dog in Greenbelt woods. Andy kicked the K-9 dog to protect his own dog. Andy personally told me he went to the police station to complain and was told he could be arrested for kicking a police dog. Case closed. And Cpl. Musterman said the story was lie. Where would the average citizen go to complain? The dispatcher at the front window? Good luck!
Will Johnson February 03, 2012 at 03:33 AM
Would be kind of interesting to know all of the details of that incident. Generally most people get bit when trying to kick a dog that is in the middle of a fight with another dog, especially if the dog getting kicked is a police bite dog. It would also be interesting to know how the dogs came to be in such close proximity of one another to be engaged in an altercation. And if a person does not like the outcome from filing a complaint they can seek a higher authority. As for striking a police K-9, yes a person can be arrested for that as it is an assault on a peace officer.
Dogs Bark February 03, 2012 at 02:38 PM
thank you Will on all your Educated responses, especially the last 2!!!!.As far as the incident with Andy Levine which has NOTHING to do with a kennel!! You stated "his dog was attacked" in Greenbelt woods. I'm guessing they were both taking their dog for a walk? and "Andy had to kick the Police dog to protect his dog" If in fact Cpl. Mustermans dog did Attack his dog, Andy's dog would not have walked away unharmed and if Mustermans Dog was not well trained and well Handled , Andy would not have walked away unharmed! in the End THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH APPROVING A KENNEL! It seems that these people who complain have an issue with the Greeenbelt Police Dept! Lets not forget that Officers and their K9 Partners would GIVE THEIR LIFE TO SAVE YOURS!.......About this being "about the location being inappropriate and too public. The elem. school children come first.!" I have had a Police K9 kennel that backs directly to a sidewalk with very small children walking by all day long for years. Never have I had an Issue! Yes, the dog barks when they walk by but, once they realized it was a police dog they new what to expect. The neighbors have no problems with the occasional yes annoying barking at times (AS MOST DOGS DO) because NO criminal, Thug, juvenile delinquent would consider committing a crime anywhere near the Dog! In return their families , homes are much safer!....
Dogs Bark February 03, 2012 at 02:38 PM
It seems that the people who complain have an issue with the Greenbelt police because the issue has gone from where the kennel should be placed, safety, children, barking, an incident in the woods...It is very Sad that this officer had to move away from where he protects and serves ! especially with this economy! hopefully he hasn't taken a loss.. Maybe Officer Robert Defibaugh should get an Attorney!
Dogs Bark February 03, 2012 at 02:49 PM
Communities need police K-9 more than ever in the 21st Century. We are living through a technological revolution in crime that outpaces our ability to keep current in intelligence or to keep up on the street. Gangs, drugs, advanced communications, rapid air and ground mobility across both state and international borders – it is impossible to field enough police officers. At the most basic level offenders know when there is no police dog on duty in their neighborhood. That is when they run. That is when they go to ground with the officer. That is when they challenge officers with weapons. The Friendly Force – the police dog – protects handlers and covers officers. Most officer murders occur at night. Officers are attacked suddenly, often before they realize the suspect is present or observing them. Fifty percent are ambushes. Where officers are weak, the dog is strong. At night the K-9 sees clearly. His senses alert him to the armed suspect nobody realizes is there. In dangerous searches, foot pursuits, assaults, and fights, the dog gives officers the edge, apprehending suspects quickly and safely.
Dogs Bark February 03, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Dogs and man have co-operated to perform many tasks over the years in war and peace, for hunting, tracking, guarding, hauling and communicating. Dogs have continually shown that they can provide both valuable assistance and warm companionship. As a team, handler and dog are an extremely sensitive command unit with a level of understanding that often seems to go beyond words. Their temperaments have been matched as carefully as possible, and through living together they can often understand each other in a way that defies description Both dogs and handlers have risked, and sometimes lost their lives to protect each other They are a team!
tcmitssr February 03, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Again, SHAME on the GHI Board of Directors and SHAME on anyone in GHI who opposed this! All of you should apologize to the officer and the Police Department. The time may have come for GHI to dispense with being served by the Greenbelt Police Department and contract, full-time, with a private security agency for your community's protection. That way, you can tailor everything about your protection, in every way, down to the specific manners you want.
cheryl February 03, 2012 at 05:30 PM
We live in Berwyn Heights and would love for him and his K-9 companion to live here. People don't realize the asset they have when having a police officer, let alone his K-9 partner. If the GHI BOD are so opposed, maybe they should oppose all people living in Greenbelt that have a dog because it "might" bark. By the way, that is what dogs do and if you had a burglar trying to get into your house or yard, I KNOW they would think twice if they heard a dog barking. In regards to the kennel, it has to be up to code before a dog can stay in it. Lastly, if you don't think a little 20 pound dog can't get out and bite someone and it doesn't hurt, you are hugely mistaken.
Sluff Johnson February 04, 2012 at 12:44 AM
Good point, Cheryl. Any dog can bark...not just a police K-9.
Sluff Johnson February 04, 2012 at 12:47 AM
There's no crime in Old Greenbelt; there a safe, and do not worry about the consequences of this decision. There will be a time when the service is needed and because of their decision, someone, could lose their life. That, will be on GHI's mind for life.
For Police 100% February 19, 2012 at 11:44 PM
Ok people of greenbelt, would you rather have barking dog, or a drug dealer or robber! I don't think so that police officer and his dog is here to protect you! You people need to relax. First of all those who are scared of the dog, he's trained not to attack people unless his owner tells him to!!! So with that eveyone who is mad about this, your going to regret one day when someone breaks into your house and there's no dog or officer there to help you!!!! So calm down!!!!
tcmitssr February 20, 2012 at 01:11 AM
Could GHI have erred in this situation any worse than it has and still refuse to correct it?
terry hill April 22, 2012 at 05:39 PM
ok. now get rid of all the dogs in greenbelt city. they bite and bark as u walk bye there yards. its a two way door. the police dog is a member of city police force. to protect and serve. and u treat him this way. but its ok for other dogs to be on a leash and go all over the city. and u dont know owners or dogs. and the dog barks or bites a person walking bye. but that is ok.

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