Police dog biting fleeing suspect was ‘less violent option’, IPCA finds

A man arrested by the Dunedin Police Department filed a complaint with the Independent Police Conduct Authority after being bitten twice by a police dog during his arrest.  (File photo)

David Unwin / stuff

A man arrested by the Dunedin Police Department filed a complaint with the Independent Police Conduct Authority after being bitten twice by a police dog during his arrest. (File photo)

A man wanted by police for a range of criminal offenses was bitten twice by a police dog while attempting to escape during his arrest.

However, the use of the dog was justified, the Independent Police Behavioral Authority (IPCA) has determined.

The incident occurred in April last year when the man was seen with two other people along Great King Street in central Dunedin.

The man was wanted for several crimes allegedly committed during the Covid-19 lockdown, including reckless driving, aggravated no-stopping, obstruction of a health officer, escaping from police custody and violating bail conditions

An operation was planned to arrest the man who was at a motel in Dunedin at the time.

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When the police spotted the man and told him to lie down on the ground, he decided to run away.

He had only taken a few steps when he turned and saw a police dog approaching. The dog bit his front right thigh.

The man tried to hit the dog when it landed on the ground.

He said he was on his knees before lying on his stomach when the dog bit him in the back of his thigh and buttocks for about 15 to 20 seconds.

The man said he surrendered at this point and is no longer defending himself.

He was later treated for his wounds, which resulted in a 1 cm scar on his thigh and a 5 cm scar on his buttocks.

A complaint was filed with the IPCA in September 2020.

The agency checked video footage of the incident as part of its investigation.

One of the police officers involved said they had decided to use the dog to prevent the man from escaping again.

Neither pepper spray nor a taser were suitable options, and the only other non-fatal option was for the officer to release the dog.

The ruling found that police considered the man a “significant threat” and that he had actively evaded police following his previous alleged crime.

The IPCA stated that the only other “less violent” option would have been to let the man go.

Acting Coastal Area Commander of Otago, Inspector James Ure, said the officers’ actions and tactical options used to locate and safely arrest the man were “professional, appropriate in accordance with relative policies and circumstances.”