Two police officers could face criminal charges after a police dog bit an off-duty officer in Surrey while pursuing a suspect more than two years ago.
British Columbia’s civilian police watchdog, the Independent Investigations Office (IIO), has determined there are “reasonable grounds” to believe the officers may have committed an offence during the takedown on May 29, 2021.
It has filed a report to the BC Prosecution Service for consideration of charges.
“While the matter is with Crown, the IIO will not be making any additional comment about the facts of this case,” the watchdog wrote in a Tuesday news release.
According to the IIO, officers from the Lower Mainland Integrated Police Dog Service were trying to take two people into custody after an incident around 9:35 p.m. on May 29, 2021. They followed one of the suspects down a residential street with help from a police dog, and ran into an “uninvolved man who sustained a serious dog bite injury.”
A lawsuit launched by the “uninvolved man” is much more detailed. In a notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court on May 9, Metro Vancouver police Insp. Manjinder Singh Kaila claims he was standing on the driveway of his Surrey home when he heard a loud bang.
He claims he saw a pickup truck stop on his neighbour’s lawn and a man and woman run from the scene. That’s when several officers arrived with the police dog, he alleges.
Kaila said none of the officers identified themselves as police. A former dog handler himself, Kaila claims he yelled several times, “I’m not involved, it wasn’t me,” with his arms and hands raised to chest level.
He claims he made no threatening gestures or sudden movements.
The suit alleges that Kaila’s “next awareness was of a police officer on top of him” and of a command issued to the German Shepherd … In direct response, the dog bit and mauled the plaintiff’s left leg and calf,” the claim states.
Kaila claims he sustained lacerations to his left leg that required 12 to 14 staples, leaving him with permanent scarring and injuries to his ankle, calf, back and shoulders, requiring ongoing treatment. He has also reportedly experienced sleep disturbance, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety.
He is suing the two officers, the City of Delta and B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth, claiming battery, negligence and breach of statutory duties. In particular, he alleges negligence on the basis of the officers failing to identify themselves as police, failing to establish reasonable and probable grounds to use force against Kaila, and failing to assess whether Kaila met the suspect description, as well as the use of excessive force.
None of the claims have been proven in court. Global News has reached out to the RCMP for comment.
The City of Delta, Delta Police Department and Farnworth all declined to comment on the matter as it is before the courts.
In its own statement of defense, the B.C. government denies Kaila’s allegations and all liability, direct or otherwise.
It states that the two implicated police officers “acted in good faith,” believing with reasonable grounds that they were engaged in a “high-risk situation with unknown persons who were adamant on escaping from police and had a propensity to become violent.” It states that officers did identify themselves as police, that the plaintiff was jogging, his dark clothing matched the description of the male suspect, it was dark out, and he did not adhere to police commands.
“Because the Male Suspect was believed to be potentially armed with a firearm, (the constable) decided the safest way to apprehend him was to knock him to the ground, giving the police dog a chance to deploy and preventing access to any firearm,” it states.
“As soon as it was discovered that the Plaintiff was not the Male suspect (the constable) disengaged the police dog.”
The province further alleges that if the plaintiff did suffer any injury or damage, it could have been prevented or reduced had he not placed himself in a scene of active police response or failed to follow police instructions.
In an interview, Robyn Wishart — a Vancouver-based personal injury lawyer not connected to this incident — said that if criminal charges are laid, the case could impact the civil suit. Typically, she said, a criminal matter proceeds more quickly than a civil case.
“A criminal filing can be really helpful to a civil case … because when a criminal case goes forward, everyone who’s part of the story will come to the court and give their evidence about what they saw,” she explained. “So this is incredibly helpful to a civil case because it assists both sides of the story to get to the heart and the truth of what happened.”
According to the IIO, the Crown will only approve charges in the case of the police dog bite if it believes there is a substantial likelihood of conviction based on evidence the watchdog has gathered, and that prosecution would be in the public interest.