I’m a dog lover, but the Times story about innocent bystanders mauled by police dogs frightened the heck out of me. It is one thing to train K9 dogs to chase suspects and hold them until police officers can catch up and take over. And of course the dogs are going to hold suspects with their teeth, not their soft cuddly paws. But too many mistakes are being made. The cost is high, stemmng from psychological and physical damage to victims and lawsuit-related settleements by police departments.
From the Times story: “Over the past five years, at least 17 people claim they were mistakenly attacked by police dogs from Western Washington law-enforcement agencies. As a result, the agencies have paid nearly $1 million in damages, with several large claims pending.”
The problem: Most U.S. police dogs are trained to dig their choppers into a suspect and hold on tight, releasing only upon orders from their handlers, the story noted. Imagine enduring horrible pain from the sharp canines and powerful jaws of a dog, while waiting for a trailing cop to catch up and order the dog to stand down. Puyallup resident, Mark Roberts, can tell you the experience is much worse than you could ever imagine.
The solution: change U.S. training to better match European techniques where dogs are trained to chase suspects and when they find them, circle and bark. The dog would only bites if the suspect tries to flee or attackes the dog or cop.
The Times story notes that the U.S. Department of Justice and the International Association of Chiefs of Police recommend this type of training for U.S. police dogs. So why is there still resistance to “find and bark” method among many law-enforcement agencies?
Photo: Alan Berner/The Seattle Times