Punta Gorda police to introduce K-9 unit changes

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PUNTA GORDA, Fla. — Changes are coming to the K-9 unit at the Punta Gorda Police Department.

City Council unanimously approved a plan that will discontinue the use of the dogs in the direct apprehension of suspects. Instead, the dogs will only be used to collect and gather evidence and for community outreach.

A police dog was at the center of a controversial arrest in October 2015, when a German shepherd mauled a bicyclist who was resisting arrest from officer Lee Coel, prompting a lawsuit. That German shepherd is being taken off the force and two new dogs are being added.

The German shepherd — named Spirit — is being given to Coel as a pet.

Coel was also the officer who shot retired librarian Mary Knowlton in a citizens training academy, a story that garnered national attention.

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