Officers with the San Diego Police Department say they released a K9 on a man who attacked a cab driver, tried to steal a motorcycle and threatened one of their officers in downtown on July 9. However, a group called United Against Police Terror, posted a video to their Facebook page saying the officer “allowed the dog to maul the man” while he was still handcuffed.
Video Goes Viral
In the viral video, you can see the man in handcuffs while the dog holds a strong grip on his arm and refuses to let go. The dog shakes its head back and forth while the man can be seen screaming in agony. You can even hear witnesses yelling at the officers. The San Diego Police Department maintains that the dog and the officer did everything right. Instead of verbal commands, the officer used a “bite and hold” technique. In the video, you see the officer applying pressure to the dog’s jaw by pulling up on the collar.
But the technique doesn’t work immediately. The dog in the video clamped down on the man’s arm at least for 30 seconds before letting go. But police argue that the bite and clamp technique prevents the bite injuries from getting worse. The man is expected to recover. The San Diego Police Foundation is holding an open event August 19 with the public to discuss the bite-and-hold and other techniques they use with their dogs.
Liability Issues in Police Dog Cases
While California’s strict liability statute holds the general public responsible for the action of pets that attack and cause injuries, state laws do give police and military officers special protections when their dogs inflict injuries on people in the course of making arrests. However, there is no protection in the law for use of excessive force, violation of civil rights or causing injuries that are outside the scope of law enforcement.
California’s dog bite law holds a city or county liable for bites inflicted by a police dog if the victim was not a party or participant in the acts that prompted the use of the police dog or was not a suspect. Police departments must also have an adopted written policy on the necessary and appropriate use of a police dog.
Need for Investigation
In such cases, a thorough and fair investigation is needed in order to determine whether a police department appropriately used the K9 and whether it violated department policies by employing excessive force. Anyone who has been injured by a police dog and believes the incident was unwarranted or occurred as a result of excessive use of force would be well advised to contact an experienced California personal injury lawyer who has successfully handled similar cases.