Police dogs do not fall under the same rules as the dogs you find in your neighborhood. Dogs are often used by an arresting officer to assist in a police pursuit on foot or to help sniff out dangerous criminals in hiding. It is dangerous work, but the dogs do it without any hesitation. All K9 dogs have their own handlers who are responsible for the actions of their dogs, but are the handlers aware of the laws governing police dogs and excessive force when they enter into a situation?
Police Dogs Under the Law
In most states, including Pennsylvania, police dogs are protected by a special set of laws that dictate the types of activities dogs can engage in. However, those laws do not apply to situations where the dogs are used to instigate excessive force. The problem is determining what is excessive force, and what is considered reasonable actions by the K9 office and arresting officer. Should every criminal who runs from the police expect to have a dog bite them and take them down? What should dogs be doing after the police pursuit?
The problem is determining what is excessive force, and what is considered reasonable actions by the K9 office and arresting officer. Should every criminal who runs from the police expect to have a dog bite them and take them down? What should dogs be doing after the police pursuit?
The Case Of A Naked Man Bitten By A Dog
In December 2016, a businessman who was visiting San Diego for a conference found himself high on what the police suspect was LSD and naked in a park. The man was deliriously running through a San Diego park screaming and waving his arms. The police were called and they brought a dog with them.
The police surrounded the delirious man and told him to surrender. When the man refused, without warning, the police released their dog on the man. The police later stated that the man was considered a threat because he was “walking towards the police with his fists clenched.” However, the man was naked and had no weapon, yet the K9 officer determined that it was necessary to unleash his dog on the man.
The dog did his job and took the man down, and the police immediately jumped on the man to put him in cuffs. During the 40-second struggle to put cuffs on the man, the police allowed the dog to continue to bite the man’s leg until his leg was permanently damaged. The man sued the city of San Diego for damages to his leg, and the city responded by saying that the police responded appropriately to the situation.
The Legal Ramifications
One of the biggest problems for the city of San Diego and the San Diego police department, in this case, is that there is video footage of the incident captured by a police body camera. The video clearly shows the unarmed and naked man being taken down and mutilated by the dog without any restraint from the officers. The video remains a damaging piece of evidence against the police in a case that is still in court.
Suing a police department for excessive force due to the actions of a police dog can be done as a civil action in a state or federal court. Plaintiffs will find more success in their case if they pursue their action in federal court because many of the laws governing police dog activity fall under federal jurisdiction.
The city of San Diego approved a nearly $400,000 settlement with the plaintiff, but the plaintiff wants to go to court to get properly compensated for his permanent disability as a result of the police dog’s attack. While the offer of a settlement does not indicate guilt on the part of the police department, it does add plenty of fuel to an argument against the use of the police dog and the possibility that this was a case of excessive force.
Using Correct Protocol For Suspects
Police dogs are allowed to be used to hunt for suspects and chase dangerous subjects in a variety of situations and they are protected from liability. Once the dog brings the suspect down, it is up to the officers to get involved in time to prevent permanent injury to the suspect. But officers also have to give at least one warning before releasing the police dog. The warning is given to give the suspect a chance to surrender before having to stare down the gnashing teeth of a police dog.
Police dogs are used throughout the country but, if it is determined that the use of the dogs constituted excessive force, then the suspect has the right to sue the police department in civil court to get compensation. The sought after compensation is considered fair for the injuries inflicted by a highly-trained police dog.