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Home / Publications and Media / 2023 media releases

Use of Police dog to arrest a woman in Fielding not justified

15 June 2023

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has found that a Police dog handler’s decision to command his dog to restrain a woman who was hiding in bushes was not justified.

On the night of 4 October 2022, Police followed a car that had been driven dangerously to a rural property, finding the car abandoned.

The dog handler (who was accompanied by another officer) used his dog to track the occupants of the car. The dog handler says that he saw two figures ahead of him and called out to them to give themselves up. As they did not, he released the dog.

The dog bit a female who was hiding in the bushes on her lower leg; she had been the passenger in the car. After she had been detained, the driver was tracked into a neighbouring paddock. He gave himself up without need for the use of the dog.

The officers who arrested the woman found that she had serious injuries from the dog bite, and an ambulance was called to meet them at the Palmerston North Police Station. She was subsequently admitted to hospital for treatment.

The Authority has concluded that use of the dog was out of proportion to the offences the driver of the car had committed. The woman had committed no offence beyond being on a property without reasonable excuse – for which she had a valid defence. Other options were available to the officers – in particular, the dog should have been used to track, and then arrest, both parties.

While the review of this incident carried out at the Police district level supported the dog handler’s actions, on consideration of the Authority’s draft report, Police agreed that the correct option would have been for the officer to track the suspects.

Authority Chair Judge Kenneth Johnston KC said: “In this case, a young woman suffered life-long injuries as a result of a poor decision by the dog handler. Officers need to consider carefully whether the injury that may be caused by a dog is proportionate to the offence the person is suspected of having committed. Not immediately surrendering to Police does not on its own mean that an officer is justified in releasing a dog.”

Public Report
Unjustified use of Police dog (PDF 368 KB)
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