The Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) has found that the use of a Police dog to bite a 14-year-old boy following a high-speed pursuit in Hamilton in 2019 was not justified.
“The use of a Police dog to bite the young person was not justified or necessary in the circumstances,” said Authority Chair, Judge Colin Doherty.
“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.”
On 8 October 2019, the teenager was staying at his friend’s house in Cambridge when his friend decided to take his mother’s Volkswagen without her knowledge.
At around 1.38am the next morning, two officers who had just attended a possible vehicle break-in, saw the young person driving the Volkswagen and thought he may have been involved. They also thought he may have been driving a stolen car as he did not match the registered owner’s description. They signalled the driver to stop and, when he did not, initiated a pursuit. The pursuit lasted for 18 minutes, reached speeds of approximately 150kph in a 100kph zone, and travelled approximately 30 kilometres.
The pursuit ended when the young person drove down a dead-end driveway in a rural area south of Hamilton. He and his friend, who was in the front passenger seat, fled on foot into surrounding farmland. Four other young people who were in the back seat were apprehended almost immediately.
The pursuing officer and a dog handler chased the driver and passenger through some paddocks before the driver was apprehended by a Police dog and bitten. He sustained a serious dog bite to his left calf. He was given medical assistance at the scene and at the station before being taken to Waikato Hospital for treatment.
The Authority also found the initial decision to signal the Volkswagen to stop was justified.
“Due to the interpretation of Police policy at the time, the initiation of the pursuit was also justified. However, insufficient consideration was given to abandoning the pursuit once the risks increased due to speed, the young person’s manner of driving and the number of occupants in the vehicle,” the IPCA stated.
The Authority found Police were justified in arresting the young person, and did not accept his allegation that he was punched, sworn at, and laughed at during his arrest.