Vancouver Police Department Bites Skater
| No Comment
The Vancouver Police Department will not change its dog-handling policy, the force said Friday, in the face of a lawsuit alleging excessive force in a police dog bite. Skateboarder Chris Evans has launched a notice of civil claim in B.C. Supreme Court alleging that Const. Richard Ronald Lee committed assault and battery using his police dog in an incident in June. Evans, 33, says he grew frustrated when a bus passed him by on East Hastings Street, and he struck a bus with his board. He had his headphones on and didn’t know what hit him when a police dog latched onto his leg, he said.
He also alleges Const. Howard Rutter was negligent in training and teaching the “bite and hold” method, versus less aggressive methods such as “bark and hold.” The Pivot Legal Society, who is backing Evans’ claim, asked the VPD to reform its dog-handling program to use the “bark and hold” method, and probe what it calls a “really high” number of instances of police dogs biting suspects.
Const. Lindsey Houghton said Friday he could not speak to the incident, but it was investigated by professional standards under the oversight of the Office of Police Complaints Commissioner (OPCC), and a complaint was dismissed. Houghton said the force will not change its dog-handling methods or review the issue, unless legislative authorities ask it to.
“We are trying to do our best to apprehend offenders, so that more people are not put at risk,” Houghton said. “Our police dogs are at the forefront of that.” In a brief interview, Evans said he is disappointed with the VPD’s response. “I think it’s retarded,” he said. “It’s just that one cop’s word against mine, so of course the other cops will back him (in the professional standards investigation).”
Evans said he required 100 staples to close a leg wound suffered in the attack, and he believes his leg will never function the same, due to nerve damage. Evans faced a mischief charge in the incident, but the Crown stayed the charge. Houghton said that like a baton or Taser, a police dog is seen as an “intermediate weapon” in the national police “use-of-force” framework. Experts say the “bark and hold” method trains a dog to latch onto a suspect and only bite based on the suspect’s response or compliance. Under the “bite and hold” method a dog released on a suspect is trained to bite right away.
According to OPCC statistics, between March 2011 and January 2012, 46 per cent of the reportable injuries received from B.C. municipal forces came from police dog bites. The year before it was 48 per cent. A recent OPCC quarterly report states that “most reportable injuries are as a result of police dog bites.”
Although specific numbers weren’t available for the VPD, Pivot believes police dogs are used too frequently in everyday situations. In an interview this week, Pivot staff lawyer Douglas King said that in the past two years he has spoken to at least two dozen people who have been injured by police dogs — three in the past two weeks. These incidents took place mainly in the Lower Mainland. Scott Philippo was bitten in October 2010 after a VPD officer lost control of his police dog. Philippo suffered significant injuries to his torso. He has also filed suit.
Written By Sam Cooper Of The Province.com
Here’s some video footage to show why the police were so pissed off.