Officers cleared in police dog injury investigation

Police have been cleared in an investigation into a police dog inflicting a serious injury on a Palmerston North man.

The man, identified only as Mr W, had caused several police callouts at his house in November 2012 for serious incidents involving threatening behaviour and weapons, the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) said.

In its report released today, the Authority said police received a further call at 10:35pm on November 13 from an informant stating Mr W was threatening his neighbours with a gun and had "lost the plot".

Mr W was said to be highly intoxicated, on prescription medication and acting in response to rival gang members visiting his neighbours' house.

Police immediately responded to the call.

At 11:30pm the Armed Offenders Squad (AOS) was paged following concerns that Mr W, who was at that stage inside his house, was still in possession of a gun and that he posed a high level of threat to himself and others.

By 1.45am, despite trying voice appeal, loud hailer, telephone and other noise devices, police had not managed to communicate with Mr W and were becoming increasingly concerned for his safety and wellbeing.

The AOS Commander instructed a team of officers to enter the house. As they did so, one officer saw Mr W standing at the other end of the hallway.

The officer identified himself as armed police and told Mr W to show his hands and walk towards him. Mr W did not comply with this instruction and instead began closing the door in an effort to shut himself in the toilet, the IPCA report stated.

The officer could not see if Mr W was holding a weapon, so he advanced to prevent Mr W closing the door and pushed him to the ground.

"As the house had not been searched, and police did not know if other people or weapons were present, the AOS team leader was concerned that officers dealing with Mr W were in a vulnerable position".

"The AOS team leader decided it was necessary to remove Mr W from the hallway as soon as possible so that rooms off the hallway could be cleared and secured."

With other officers covering the uncleared rooms, two officers attempted to pull Mr W's hands out from under his body however he was struggling and this was unsuccessful.

"An officer then deployed his dog, on a lead, to grasp Mr W by the shoulder. At this time Mr W still refused to comply and officers were unable to gain control of his arms".

"Aware of the urgent need to remove Mr W from the hallway, the dog was instructed to drag Mr W towards the front door where the dog was called off and Mr W was handcuffed,'' the report said.

"Mr W suffered puncture wounds to his shoulder and arm as a result of the dog bite. He received immediate treatment for his injuries from the AOS medic before being treated by ambulance staff and transported to Palmerston North Hospital."

A subsequent search of the property located a number of weapons, but no guns were found. Mr W was charged with possession of offensive weapons.

The IPCA found police followed all relevant policy and acted appropriately during the incident.

In releasing this report IPCA chairman, Judge Sir David Carruthers said police actions in this incident were justified and reasonable.

"At the time of this incident Mr W, who was well known to Palmerston North Police, had 37 previous convictions. He had a record of incidents involving domestic violence, drug use, carrying a knife and violence against police, and had been involved in four police callouts in the preceding 12 hours".

"Police must consider their own safety when attending to incidents such as this. Mr W's own behaviour created a level of risk that led police to believe that the use of a police dog would be an appropriate tactical option in the circumstances".

"The Authority's report finds that the use of force in this instance was justified," Sir David said.

- APNZ

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