Police dog bite following Police pursuit in Paeroa excessive
The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that the deployment of a Police dog to apprehend a female passenger was an excessive use of force. The female received substantial injuries to her right arm and was hospitalised for three days.
On 23 April 2017, at 8.49pm, Police began pursuing a stolen car in Paeroa. Ultimately, the three occupants abandoned the vehicle and attempted to escape Police.
A dog handler was called to assist but after forty minutes of tracking the occupants he was unable to find them. On the way back to the patrol car the Police dog began to show interest in a nearby paddock.
As the dog handler approached, he saw a female crouched down on the top of a bank in the paddock. The female said she had made herself visible, and put her hands above her head, to show that she was surrendering.
The dog handler said that when challenged by him she ran away into the paddock. The female, however, was adamant that she did not run but stayed still on the ground as instructed. Nevertheless, the dog handler released his dog and it bit her.
"The female was a passenger in a stolen vehicle. She was giving herself up to Police. The use of the dog was neither proportionate to the circumstances or the offence she had committed or appropriate when she was surrendering. The female's injuries were substantial and required admission to hospital and surgical repair to her arm. The force used by the dog handler to apprehend the female was excessive," said Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty.
The Authority did find that Police provided appropriate medical assistance for the female following the incident.
“We acknowledge that the dog handler did conduct a risk assessment in relation to the arrest of the female, and considered a range of factors in that assessment,” says Superintendent Bruce Bird, Waikato District Commander.
These included the suggestion she may be armed, that the location of the other offenders was unclear, there was difficult terrain, and that distance between the officer and female made other tactical options more difficult.
However, Police acknowledges that other tactical options could have and should have been used first, namely verbal communication and ‘empty hand’ tactics (physical restraint).
“Our staff work in a fast-paced, dynamic environment, and make a number of risk assessments on a daily basis,” Superintendent Bird says.
“On the occasions we don’t get these right, we work to ensure lessons are learned so better options are taken in the future.”