Is There a Pattern of Abuse of Power With Police Dogs In Salt Lake City?

Posted on October 21, 2020

Dogs are considered man’s best friend, but they are not only used to serve as a companion in the home. Dogs are also used in a working capacity, whether it is as a guide, emotional support or in law enforcement. This means that canines are trained to act and behave in certain ways in given situations. Thus, when an individual is bit or attacked by these trained working dogs, it could call into question whether or not the dog bite is excusable due to provocation or is an exemption because the dog was acting in accordance to its training for law enforcement duty. Because of this, it is important to consider if dog owner liability is still applicable for those injured by a working dog.

Pattern Of Abuse of Power

Current data in Salt Lake City has uncovered a pattern of abuse of power when it comes to the usage of dogs by police and having them bite suspects. Following body cam footage of a police officer ordering their dog to bite a black man while the suspect was already on his knees with his hands in the air, a review of the times police dogs were used during an arrest was launched.

What was uncovered after this review was a pattern of abuse of power. During this review, 27 cases were looked at where a dog bit a suspect since 2018. Of those, 18 were flagged and highlighted as a failure within the police department to report up the chain of command when use of force, which includes a dog biting a suspect, during an arrest.

The Use of Police Dogs

Based on these preliminary findings, the use of police dogs on suspects by the Salt Lake City Police Department will be suspended while this investigation continues. Just in 2020 alone, police dogs in the department bit 11 people, and of those, nine are being referred for criminal charges against the officer.

An exception to dog bite rules is that liability for injuries cannot be placed on the police department or officer if a bite occurs during the arrest of a suspect; however, this exception cannot apply in situations where a dog bite was not warranted or is considered unnecessary force. Thus, it is possible for these individuals to seek compensation for the injuries suffered from a dog bite despite this exception put in place.

The injuries and damages caused by a dog bite or attack can be significant. Not only is a victim likely suffering from the pain and suffering caused by the bite, but they may also suffer mental anguish and emotional harm because of it. Thus, it is important that victims fully explore the damages they are currently dealing with as well as future losses brought on by the dog bite. This can help them obtain proper compensation if a personal injury claim is filed.