IPCA finds letting police dog bite teenager after speed chase unjustified

By Te Ao - Māori News

The Independent Police Conduct Authority has ruled the use of a Police dog to bite a 14-year-old was not justified or necessary after a police chase in 2019.

Authority chair Judge Colin Doherty said two officers, who had just attended a possible vehicle break-in, had noticed a boy and his friends driving his mother's Volkswagen at 1:38am and signalled to pull him over as he did not match the registered owner's description, assuming he may have been involved with the break-in.

They signalled the boy to stop but he did not, so a pursuit was initiated, lasting 18 minutes and reached speeds of approximately 150kph over 30 kilometres.

The pursuit ended after the car stopped down a dead-end driveway. The boy and his friend, who was in the passenger seat, fled, while four other passengers in the back seat were apprehended. 

The two who fled were apprehended shortly after a dog handler chased them. However, the driver was bitten by the police dog in the chase. He was given medical attention at the scene and a police station for the serious bite on his left calf before being taken to Waikato Hospital for treatment.

Bite unjustified

The judge said the decision to signal the car to stop, as well as initiating the pursuit was justified. But there was insufficient consideration given to abandoning the pursuit after the risk increased due to high speed, the number of passengers and the manner of the young person's driving.

“The use of a Police dog to bite the young person was not justified or necessary in the circumstances. While there was no issue with Police using the dog to track him, the offending that he had possibly been involved in was not at a level that warranted a Police dog being deployed to bite him.”

Doherty also said arresting the young person was justified and hesaid no allegation that the youth was punched, sworn at and laughed at during his arrest was accepted.