The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that an officer should not have used a Police dog to pull a man from a car after he refused to accompany Police to the station for breath test procedures in Invercargill on 18 October 2020.
At approximately 1am, officers stopped a speeding car on Teviot Street. The driver failed a breath test but would not co-operate. Two passengers shouted abuse and gang slogans. The rear passenger spat at Police, while the front passenger got out of the car and confronted officers. Both passengers were arrested during the incident.
A dog handler and other officers came to assist. After about fifteen minutes, two officers tried to pull the driver from the car, but he resisted and was verbally abusive. The dog handler then commanded his dog to bite the driver. The dog bit the driver’s arm and pulled him from the car. The driver was taken to the ground and handcuffed. He received puncture wounds to his left bicep, facial grazing, and other scratches and bruising.
The driver complained about the use of the dog, and that he was pushed to the ground causing him to hit his head.
The Authority found that the use of the Police dog was unjustified in the circumstances. We also found that the dog handler kicked the driver on his arm and on the side of his body while he was on the ground, and this was not justified.
“In this case, the driver had been pulled over for a driving offence and did not pose a threat to the public with the car immobilised and surrounded. He was being physically resistant and verbally aggressive but sufficient officers were present to deal with him and the two passengers. Other tactical options, such as continued negotiation or pepper spray, were preferable to using a Police dog capable of inflicting serious injuries. To use a Police dog in these circumstances was an overreaction,” said Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty.
The Authority completed its investigation into this incident in July 2021 but delayed the release of its public report until after the conclusion of related court proceedings.