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Articles Tagged with police dogs

On Saturday, May 23, a woman allegedly brandished a knife and fought a police canine in the East Village. According to the San Diego Police Department, an officer shot and wounded her. The incident was reported at 9:50 p.m. in the 500 block of Park Boulevard. Witnesses called the police to report being hit by glass that the 26-year-old woman was throwing at them from an upper-level apartment.

 

Lt. Andra Brown of the SDPD said that upon arrival, broken glass and furniture were seen on the sidewalk. Officers attempted to talk with the woman, but this did not stop her from throwing items from her apartment window. Officers also noted that she was seen at her window with a knife.

 

The officers were able to get into her apartment where they found her barricaded in her bathroom. They continued to try and speak with her and used a variety of techniques to get her to come out of her bathroom including chemical agents and a police canine. The woman allegedly punched the canine and was threatening officers with the knife. In response, one officer shot the woman. Once she was down, they engaged in first aid and also called the paramedics.

 

None of the officers nor the canine sustained injuries from the incident. Homicide detectives investigated the incident because of the officer’s action to shoot the woman. They found the knife in the apartment. The officer that shot the woman was not named and the woman’s identity was not released. It is known that the officer was with the SDPD for over 11 years. Upon completion of the investigation, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office will review it and decide if criminal liability exists.

 

In addition to the homicide detectives’ investigation, Internal Affairs will also review the incident to see if any policy violations took place. The Shooting Review Board will look at the actions that the officer took to ensure they were proper and the Community Review Board on Police Practices will inspect the details of the incident. Last, the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the U.S. Attorney’s Office will be keeping watch over the investigation.

 

When can an Officer Shoot a Firearm?

 

Law enforcement officers are legally allowed to use deadly force if there is a reasonable belief that the incident they are involved in has an impending threat of lethal force coming their way. They can also use their firearm if they believe there is a potential for another officer or a member of the public to be the recipient of deadly force. 

 

The idea of what is “reasonable,” the details of the situation, and the information the officer has at the moment comes into play when evaluating a shooting incident. Under the penal code, officers are able to evaluate a situation and use the necessary force required to control it. Officers can use force when there is resistance or if they determine it is appropriate to try and stop themselves or another person from being hurt or killed.

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The San Diego Union Tribune reports that there has been a sharp spike in the use of police dogs in San Diego, and this has raised questions about how and when officers call on the dogs to quell dangerous situations. Police officials say canine units help de-escalate situations and prevent the elevated use of force, but some recent high-profile biting incidents have prompted complaints from community members, lawsuits for excessive force, and a large city settlement.

Specifically the number of suspects bitten per year has risen sharply from 15 in 2013 to 86 in 2016. The number of times officers deployed a canine increased from 1,778 to 3,222 over that time. This increase in usage of canines has occured despite an overall decrease in crime and drop in emergency responses by the Police Department. The police department claims that there has been a continued rise in the number of dog bite incidents involving suspects with mental illness and suspects who have been using drugs or alcohol.

Additionally, the number of canine units slowly increased from the initial 14 in 1984 up to 20 in 1990, and then has more than doubled to 44 units in 1991.

Last July, a YouTube video went viral of a man being bitten while handcuffed. It is predicted that a lawsuit will be likely. Last December, the city of San Diego paid out $385,000 after a dog bite left one man’s leg badly damaged.

Last year, Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman ordered a review of canine policies and training to include more role-playing activities and emotional intelligence components. However, there are currently no plans to shift away from having police physically remove dogs from suspects during a biting incident.

When are Police Dogs Considered Excessive Force?

There are still limits to the injuries police dogs may inflict in the course of their duties.  California has fairly strict liability laws for dog owners, but there is an exception for police dogs in certain circumstances. For example, dog bite statutes might still apply when a dog bites an innocent bystander or witness to a crime.

The use of a dog in the course of police activity can be unreasonable when the nature and quality of the intrusion is not justified. When it is unreasonable, it can result in a 4th Amendment or 8th Amendment violation, which gives rise to civil damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Continue reading

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