Police dogs are common in law enforcement throughout the country, but the laws that govern how dogs can be used are different than other law enforcement regulations. Most of the laws governing police dog attacks are covered by the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which means that a dog attack is not a state issue. Police are not allowed to use dogs in a manner that could be construed as excessive force, but it is often up to the courts to decide the definition of excessive force in every situation.
An Out Of Control Police Dog Attacks A Civilian
On January 18, 2016, Joey Myers and a friend had climbed through the open window of a pizzeria in Millville, New Jersey to get high in the building’s basement. The series of events that led to police arriving on the scene are not clear. But what is clear is that three officers arrived which included K-9 Officer Michael Calichi and his partner Chase. Once in the building, Chase immediately bit one of the other officers as he climbed into the building, and then bit another officer who was trying to stop the first attack.
Chase then located Myers under the stairs in the basement, and immediately attacked the young man’s face and the side of his head. Chase bit off a significant portion of Myers’ right ear before Calichi could gain control of his partner. Myers’ mother, Carolyn Chaundry, filed a lawsuit in federal court in March 2017 alleging excessive force by Calichi and the Millville police force.
The Statute Of Limitations
For the purposes of this case, in the state of New Jersey, the normal statute of limitations for a personal injury lawsuit between two civilians for assault and battery is two years. Under normal circumstances, that window of time would be shortened considerably if a civilian was suing the police for excessive force. However, since a dog attack by a police dog falls under federal laws, the case falls under the statute of limitations for the federal court. Since there is no hard and fast rule about a statute of limitations in these types of cases, it is expected that the court will hear the lawsuit.
In past cases, a dog attack was considered excessive force when the suspect was never given a chance to give themselves up before the dog was released. In this case, Chase appears to have escaped the control of Officer Calichi during the two bite attacks on the other officers and was allowed to find and attack Myers on his own.
Using past precedent, this case does appear to be excessive force, and it is even possible that Officer Calichi could be considered negligent for losing control of Chase. The Millville Police Department’s case becomes weak when all of the circumstances surrounding that evening are taken into account.
- Officer Calichi never appeared to have control of Chase from the moment they entered the building.
- Chase was aggressive and out of control almost immediately.
- Myers was never given a chance to surrender before the dog attacked.
Specific Rules For Dogs
Police dogs can be a great asset to any police force, but they can also become liabilities when they operate outside of the rules. The use of dogs must follow a very specific protocol, and that protocol is uniform throughout the United States. Police dog handlers who are unable to abide by those guidelines, put themselves in a position to be sued if their dogs attack in an aggressive and unnecessary manner.
Police dogs help to maintain law and order, but sometimes they can create chaos. If a police dog attacks in a manner that seems unnecessarily aggressive to the suspect or the suspect’s family, then there just might be a date for the family and the police in federal court.