The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that an officer's use of a Police dog on a man who was being arrested was legally justified, because the officer believed the man posed a risk of serious injury to his fellow officers.
On 24 August 2018, Police found out that a man, who was wanted for a serious assault committed in July, was intending to pick up a prescription in Upper Hutt. This man had a history of violent offending, including using a blood-filled syringe to assault Police.
Police set up cordons and approached the man as he came out of the pharmacy, telling him he was under arrest. The man fled from Police and ran into an underground carpark, where he became cornered. A struggle took place, during which the man fell to the ground with two officers holding his arms as they tried to place him in handcuffs.
A Police dog handler, who knew of the man's previous criminal history, arrived on the scene. He saw the man's hands were underneath him and was concerned the man would possibly use a weapon, such as a blood-infected needle, on the two officers. The dog handler instructed his dog to bite the man on the foot, and the officers handcuffed the man. Police then took the man to hospital to receive treatment for his seriously injured foot.
"The dog handler's assessment of the circumstances led him to believe that the man was assaultive and posed a genuine threat of retrieving and using a weapon such as a knife or needle. In that case the use of his dog was an appropriate option, as significant force was required to immediately overpower the man and eliminate the risk of serious injury to the officers who were struggling with him in the course of arresting him" said Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty.
However, the Authority determined that the dog handler failed to give the man the required warning before using the dog.
The Authority also found that the first two officers used reasonable force when physically restraining the man, and that Police provided appropriate medical assistance.