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Plantiff Brings Action For Being Attacked by Police Dog


In the 1980’s most police departments, especially those that were located in the southern United States stopped using police dogs. During the 1960’s and 1970’s, police departments had struggled with excessive force issues that often involved the use of police dogs. Many departments still refuse to reincorporate the use of these specially trained dogs into their departments because of the public image problems that are associated with them. There is no doubt that some officers in the 1960’s and 1970’s were guilty of misusing the police dogs that were assigned to them. Just as some officers misuse the police powers that are given to them. Most police officers are well meaning public servants who are called to police work to make a difference in the lives of other people. An officer who considers police work a calling will never abuse the power that is given to them either in the form of a badge, or a well-trained police dog.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s, police departments in the United States were undergoing a fundamental change in their ideology. Prior to this stage, police work was considered a blue collar job. During this new phase, police departments began to strive for a more professional image. With the advent of the professional era of law enforcement, the agencies began to divest themselves of any and all associations that would give them a negative public image. That included police dogs. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, dogs were slowly reincorporated beginning with search and rescue dogs. Drug dogs became popular again. There was no question that the advantage of having non-violent police dogs was beneficial to the entire goal of the justice system. During the time period when police dogs were not in use, violent interactions between police officers and citizens increased dramatically. The public began to call for better non-fatal methods to subdue and arrest criminals. The best way to apprehend a criminal who is running from the police without killing him is to allow a dog to outrun him. A dog bite or two, while painful, is seldom life-threatening. Police dogs had made a come back. No chemical weapon or electrical device was better suited to non-fatal apprehensions than were police dogs. There was no risk involved in using police dogs except for superficial bite injuries. Chemical weapons have been known to cause allergic deaths and electrical weapons can cause heart failure, or fire. Dogs were again recognized as the best tool for the job.

The problem is that if one officer abuses the power of a police dog, it becomes national and sometimes international news. It is important for the officers and the public to recognize that controlled dog encounters are the safest non-fatal approach to a violent felon in an arrest situation. If an officer abuses this power, it is no different than if that officer abuses any other tool that is provided to him for the protection of law abiding citizens. So when an incident takes place that threatens the public image of the police dog, it is especially important for that officer or officers to be brought to justice.

On May 6, 2009, a homeless man claims that he was sleeping in an alcove of a building located at 47 West 20th Street. This is a building located in Manhattan, New York. He claims that while he was peacefully minding his own business, several police officers with dogs attacked him. He claimed that they ordered their police dogs to pursue and attack him. He contends that he had not committed any crimes and that their subsequent arrest of him was false. He filed a lawsuit alleging that the police officers had used excessive force against him. He claimed that his civil rights were violated and that the police department and the city were ultimately responsible because they had clearly failed to adequately train and supervise these officers and their dogs. He claimed that the police department was also guilty of negligent hiring for hiring such violent individuals, and for negligent retention for not firing the officers following this incident. Clearly, this defendant was attempting to ride the past reputation associated with the use of police dogs in the 1960’s.

However, the officers were not according to the official police testimony, assaulting an innocent homeless man. They were attempting to arrest a violent felon who was attempting to hurt other officers while he was resisting arrest. In an effort to prevent having to resort to more permanent methods of preventing this man from injuring an officer or innocent by stander, the dogs were employed to subdue the man. If this man had simply surrendered, the dogs would have been recalled and the subject would not have been injured. There were several witnesses to this incident that all agreed that the man was not acting rationally and that the use of the police dogs was less severe in nature than using firearms. It is well known that chemical or electrical weapons are not as effective on a mentally unstable individual. Often chemical or electrical stimuli just makes them more violent. Dogs on the other hand, can subdue a person without having to injure them fatally. The state contends that rather than employing excessive force, the officers deployed the dogs to subdue the man so that he could safely be arrested. The dogs were recalled as soon as the man stopped fighting and agreed to be arrested. He was not fatally injured, nor was he beaten by the officers into submission. The state contends that there is no evidence produced by this man to prove that the actions of the officers was not the best course of action for them to take in regards to his behavior.

The man had requested that he be granted a summary judgment in his behalf finding that the state and the officers were liable to him for his injuries. The court denied his application for summary judgment as they found that there were certainly questions of fact that needed to be explored in this case. It is a shame that fifty years later, the offenses of lesser trained and professional police officers are still being suffered by the officers who are working the streets. Most of these officers were not even born when the crimes against humanity were committed by ruthless thugs who wore police uniforms. The current police forces should not be limited by not being allowed to utilize police dogs in situations that can benefit the law abiding citizen. However, it is also important to ensure that the crimes of the past are not repeated in the present. Police dogs are a valuable tool in the fight against crime in the United States. Ensuring that the officers who command them are stable individuals who are well suited to the position will help ensure that these noble beasts are permitted to serve on departments in the future. With that cause in mind, this case should be followed closely to determine the outcome.

At Stephen Bilkis & Associates with its police brutality Lawyers, have convenient offices throughout New York and Metropolitan area. Our excessive force lawyers can provide you with advice to guide you through difficult situations. Without a felony Lawyer, you could lose precious compensation to help your family.

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