Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Police Dogs: Biting the Hand that Feeds Them

It has been with great fanfare that the purchase of a new police dog was announced in the Village of Johnson City. Little was said of the direct cost (often up to $8,500) and even less was said of the liability issue.

A quick Internet search reveals a significant liability issue:

Athens County Ohio: county sued by suspect for $450,000 for dog bite which occurred in the course of an arrest.

Minneapolis, Minnesota: teacher who was bitten by police dog while turning off an alarm at her school settles for $200,000.

Waukegan, Illinois: spectator at a police dog competition sues for $100,000 for injuries incurred when a police dog veered into the crowd and bit her.

Chicago, Illinois: cook county jury awards $200,000 to a man attacked by a police dog and bitten in the leg and scrotum.

Wilmington, Delaware: pair of suspects sue in federal court for unstated damages for excessive force involving police dog bites.

Norfolk, Virginia: jury awards man $13,000 for being mistakenly bitten by a police dog.

Sarasota, Florida: 12 year old girl who was riding an electric scooter was attacked and bitten by a police dog that escaped its handler. Lawsuit seeks undisclosed damages.

Yakima, Washington: a police officer was bitten by a fellow officer's police dog and sustained serious injuries resulting in having the muscle in his forearm removed. In addition to filing for workmen's compensation, he is suing for negligence.

These are but a few examples of the increased liability a community takes on when it opts for a police dog. In addition, dog handling officers typically only patrol four out of five shifts per week since at least one shift per week is dedicated to "training" with the police dog. In these difficult economic times, a police dog looks a lot more like a luxury than a necessity.

Two final points. First, Mayor Hannon hailed the addition of a K-9 as a great tool for the JCPD in conducting searches/tracking. It is hard to imagine what JC primeval forest the Mayor envisions the K-9 searching. Second, as a supposed proponent of shared services, is is unclear why other area K-9 units could not be used if needed.

What we need are more HUMAN bodies on the streets, not publicity stunts.

As an aside, Fire Starter has heard that the breeder/trainer of the dog may have connections to Village officials. If this is true, at the very least, this should have been disclosed as a conflict of interest.

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