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Police officer who owned deadly dog lobbied for K-9 program in Grover Beach

Alex Geiger performs K-9 training exercises in a bite-proof suit with a dog in Hanford in 2013. Geiger worked as a Grover Beach police officer in December when his personal dog — his former partner in a previous department — attacked two neighbors, killing one of them.
Alex Geiger performs K-9 training exercises in a bite-proof suit with a dog in Hanford in 2013. Geiger worked as a Grover Beach police officer in December when his personal dog — his former partner in a previous department — attacked two neighbors, killing one of them.

One month before his police-trained pet dog attacked two Grover Beach residents, killing one of them, newly hired city police Officer Alex Geiger presented the police chief with a 140-page guide explaining how to form a K-9 unit in a small police department.

Police Chief John Peters previously told The Tribune that the department had “internally explored” adding a K-9 officer, among other positions, but that it had “no interest” in Geiger’s Belgian Malinois, Neo, which was euthanized after the Dec. 13 attack.

The documents estimated a one-dog K-9 unit would require almost $30,000 in startup costs, plus a new police car and $1,000 per month in ongoing training costs.

In response to a public records request by The Tribune, the city of Grover Beach on Friday provided a copy of the binder Geiger and Senior Police Officer Matt Goodman submitted to Peters on Nov. 10, a month after Geiger was sworn in as an officer and about one month before the attack that killed 64-year-old David Fear and seriously injured 85-year-old Betty Long.

In their proposal, the two officers wrote: “It is our hope that you consider moving forward in putting a K-9 team together for Grover Beach Police Department.”

On Monday, Peters said the document from Geiger and Goodman was “an unsolicited proposal which was not considered or acted upon by the city.” He emphasized that the city has no K-9 program “and such a program has not been authorized or funded by the City Council.”

Peters added, “Officer Geiger was not hired because of the ownership of his personal dog.”

As of late last week, Geiger remained on paid administrative leave and the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office was conducting its own investigation following a report submitted by county Animal Services late last month.

Two days after the attack, Animal Services Director Eric Anderson issued a news release stating that the Belgian Malinois — and a German shepherd owned by Geiger — were not connected to the Grover Beach Police Department.

“The city of Grover Beach does not have a police canine dog program, and the dogs in question were not certified by the city of Grover Beach or involved with the city in any way,” Anderson said in the release.

The city identified Geiger on Dec. 22 as the owner of the dog involved in the attack, saying he had been hired in September. Geiger was officially sworn in as an officer at an Oct. 8 City Council meeting. He previously worked as a provisional deputy with the Kings’ County Sheriff’s Department and as a provisional and later full-time officer with the Exeter Police Department in Tulare County.

Exeter police Chief Cliff Bush confirmed that Geiger was introduced to Neo through that department’s K-9 Unit and that Geiger was Neo’s handler. Neo had completed “all necessary training” and worked with Geiger as a fully functional patrol K-9 for about a year, Bush said.

Prior to moving to Grover Beach, Geiger purchased the 2 1/2 -year-old, fully trained dog from the city of Exeter for $5,287.50, according to the city.

In a memorandum attached to the materials given to Grover Beach Chief Peters in November, Geiger and Officer Goodman wrote that they contacted local K-9 teams and their supervisors to gather information that Peters could use as a resource.

The officers found that a program would initially cost about $30,000 to create — not including a specialized vehicle — and an additional $1,000 per month to train a dog. They provided Peters with state certification guidelines, possible grant opportunities, a list of specialized K-9 Unit SUVs, a copy of the Arroyo Grande Police Department’s K-9 policy, and articles from public and private organizations on “establishing a new K-9 unit for a small department.”

On the last page of the binder, the officers told Peters they did not know how frequently the Grover Beach Police Department requests the use of an outside agency’s K-9 for local operations but that the K-9 handler for the Pismo Beach Police Department “has stated their K-9 gets more work and finds more drugs when assisting the Grover Beach Police Department than its own department,” the memo reads.

In their memo, the Grover Beach officers estimated that a police dog in their department would be used “every day.”

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