The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that a Police officer’s use of his dog was excessive, when arresting a woman in Christchurch on 13 February 2021.
The woman and a man were wanted for a series of burglaries across the South Island, targeting cigarettes. Police believed the couple may be carrying firearms.
On the evening of 13 February, the dog handler located the couple in a stolen car, driven by the man. A pursuit was initiated and abandoned less than two minutes later. Police then used road spikes to try to stop the car.
Police followed the car, and a short time later reported the man had rammed their vehicle. The car then drove into a side street and the couple fled on foot.
The Police dog led the handler and another officer to a hedge, indicating one of the occupants was behind it. The dog handler says he did not see who was behind the hedge before he sent the dog in to apprehend the person. The woman received a serious dog bite injury to her leg.
The Authority found the pursuit was an inappropriate tactic in the circumstances and the Southern Emergency Communications Centre correctly applied policy when instructing for it be abandoned. It was reasonable for Police to use road spikes.
Police initially charged the man for driving into the officer’s Police car. However, they later realised the damage to the cars was not consistent with the collision as described by the officer so the charges were withdrawn. We believe the officer deliberately drove into Mr Y’s car, in breach of policy, and his subsequent statements were false.
There were conflicting accounts of what occurred at the time the woman was bitten by the dog. However, the Authority found she had no real means of escape.
Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty, says: “It is unreasonable to set a dog on an unknown person, who is neither escaping nor using force to resist arrest, for no other reason than that they may have a firearm, when there is no good cause to suspect that they actually do.” Therefore, the use of the dog was unjustified and excessive.
Police acted reasonably in taking the woman immediately to a doctor rather than providing first aid at the scene.
The Authority found the investigating officer failed to adequately investigate the collision between the Police car and fleeing car. He also submitted a Traffic Crash Report which was factually incorrect and supported charging the man with offences he did not commit.