January 14, 2015 8:35 pm

No charges against two B.C. police officers after service dogs bite suspects

FILE PHOTO: police service dogs

Natasha Pace/Global News
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No charges have been approved against two police officers after suspects in separate incidents were bitten by service dogs, B.C.’s Criminal Justice Branch says.

The branch said a case on Oct. 7, 2013 involved an officer in Vancouver, and another on Jan. 31, 2014 occurred in Courtenay.

Each incident was investigated by the Independent Investigations Office, which submits reports to the branch but does not make recommendations on whether charges should be laid.

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The evidence in each case suggests there is no substantial likelihood that the officers who were handling the service dogs would be convicted of any offence, the branch said.

In the Vancouver case, a man known to be violent suffered bite injuries from a police dog after failing to comply with an officer’s demands to get down on the ground.

The branch said the man has since been convicted of offences related to smashing his girlfriend’s cellphone, assaulting her and another woman and swinging a meat cleaver and a knife.

“He was also alleged to have threatened her and another female friend who was at the residence where the incident occurred, and to have swung a meat cleaver and a knife,” the branch said in a statement.

“He also is alleged to have stated he did not care about his own life.”

The statement said the friend managed to convince the suspect to let her go outside to her car, from where she called police, while his girlfriend escaped to a neighbour’s home and saw the man drive off.

An officer who saw the suspect nearby and was aware of his violent past demanded he get down on the ground but the man twice failed to comply, the statement said.

When the officer directed the service dog to apprehend the suspect, he was bitten on the left thigh.

“The suspect lifted the dog and punched its head,” the statement said, adding the officer struck the man on the back of his head before getting on top of him as the suspect fought back and resisted arrest.

“The (dog) bit the suspect’s right arm while the officer grabbed his left arm. Other officers began arriving on scene less than a minute later, at which point the suspect stopped resisting and was handcuffed.”

The man underwent surgery to repair the damage from the dog bites and remained in hospital for eight days, the statement said.

In the Courtenay incident, the branch said a man suffered significant injuries to his right arm during an arrest in a domestic violence complaint.

No other information was provided in the case because the suspect has been criminally charged and the matter is expected to proceed to court.

Last November, the provincial government introduced new rules for the training and deployment of police dogs after a three-year study singled out dog bites as the leading cause of injuries by RCMP and municipal police forces in B.C.

New standards emphasize proper training and spell out permitted uses for the dogs.

The Pivot Legal Society released the study in June 2014.

It found most B.C. police forces train service dogs with a method called bite-and-hold, versus the other leading technique that simply sees the dogs circle and bark.

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