7 April 2014 - The Independent Police Conduct Authority today released its report on the serious injury to an Invercargill man, Mr Blair Taylor following a Police dog bite in April 2011.
In releasing the report Independent Police Conduct Authority Chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers, said that although the Authority did not find the initial deployment of the Police dog unjustified, the continued deployment of the dog for a period of approximately 50 seconds was unjustified and an excessive use of force.
The incident involving Mr Taylor followed a Police callout to a burglary in Tay Street, Invercargill at 10:23pm on Saturday 2 April 2011. A Police dog handler arrived at the scene and saw Mr Taylor inside the property. The officer warned Mr Taylor that the dog would be released if he did not come outside. A few minutes later Mr Taylor was seen leaving the address by a second officer and was subsequently arrested. Having received information that Mr Taylor had exited the premises, the dog handler and his dog ran onto Tay Street towards Mr Taylor who was being held by the other officer. The dog then barked, jumped and lunged at Mr Taylor who failed to comply with the officers’ instruction to get onto the ground. While this was happening a third officer ran and tackled Mr Taylor from behind in an unsuccessful attempt to get him onto the ground. The dog was then deployed and gripped onto Mr Taylor’s upper right arm. Over the next 50 seconds the dog was allowed to maintain a bite hold on Mr Taylor, during which time Mr Taylor was dragged one to two metres to the footpath where he was secured, handcuffed and searched and a small ornament was found. He was then taken to hospital where he underwent surgery for his dog bite injuries.
During the investigation, the dog handler reported that Mr Taylor appeared to be attempting to conceal a metal object while inside the address and that he believed Mr Taylor was in possession of a knife. He said that though officers had hold of Mr Taylor, he deployed the dog because he thought those officers were at risk.
The Authority found that the actions of several officers involved in the incident did not comply with the law or Police policies.
“In the circumstances, the Authority is unable to reach a clear conclusion that the initial deployment of the Police dog was unjustified. However, the Authority found that the dog handler should have warned other Police staff of his belief that Mr Taylor was in the possession of a knife and he was negligent in not doing so.
“The Authority also found that there were sufficient staff present to subdue and restrain Mr Taylor and that the evidence does not support the dog handler’s view that officers were at risk. The continued use of a Police dog for about 50 seconds was therefore unnecessary and an excessive use of force. The failure to remove the dog caused Mr Taylor unnecessary harm,” Sir David said.
In its report the Authority also found that the officer who tackled Mr Taylor responded without an adequate appreciation of the situation. “His actions were premature and excessive, and were the likely catalyst for the escalation of this incident,” Sir David said.