Policeman cleared over dog attack

Last updated 12:29 21/08/2014
Kyle McArtney
MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ
INJURED: Kyle McArtney shows his wounds shortly after the incident.

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A police dog handler who released his dog on an innocent man was justified in his actions, as the officer reasonably suspected he was an offender, says the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

Last November Nelson man Kyle McArtney had 16 stitches to his leg after being bitten by a police dog released by its handler.

Tasman police district commander Superintendent Richard Chambers said then he was confident that the right decisions had been made and referred the issues to the IPCA.

The handler had released the dog as police investigated a reported burglary of a home at Hathaway Court by Trafalgar St.

McArtney told the Nelson Mail then that he had been with friends in a car and needed to go to the toilet, but public toilets were closed, so they stopped in the carpark area between Trafalgar Park and the rugby clubrooms. The police dog ran up, without its handler, and attacked him.

A report released today by the IPCA has found the handler was justified in releasing his dog to apprehend Kyle McArtney, as the officer reasonably suspected he was an offender.

"As a result of this action, Mr McArtney, an innocent party, was subsequently bitten by the police dog and received significant injuries," the report said.

In releasing the report, the authority's chairman, Judge Sir David Carruthers, said that it was a regrettable incident and was a case of McArtney being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"The authority acknowledges that this incident was traumatic for Mr McArtney, his friends and family and has caused him ongoing discomfort and inconvenience," Sir David said.

The report said that around 11pm on Sunday, November 17, last year, police were called to a burglary at Hathaway Court. A police dog handler arrived at the scene and, after establishing that the offender had fled the property, the officer and his police dog tracked the offender to a nearby carpark.

The officer heard a vehicle entering the carpark and noticed that the vehicle's headlights were off. He then saw a man, who he suspected was the offender, running from the area around the vehicle.

The officer shouted for McArtney to stop or he would release the police dog. McArtney, who was about 40 metres away from the officer, continued to move away. The officer released his dog and then saw McArtney stop and put his hands up. By that time it was too late and the police dog was committed to its target.

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McArtney fell to the ground wrestling with the dog, ignoring the officer's instructions to stop fighting with it. Finally, after about 30 seconds, the officer was able to remove the dog from McArtney's leg. He then called for assistance, and for an ambulance.

McArtney sustained multiple wounds on his lower left leg and thigh which required 16 stitches.

"The authority found that the officer's belief that Mr McArtney was an offender attempting to escape arrest, although incorrect, was reasonable in the circumstances," Sir David said.

Tasman District Commander Superintendent Richard Chambers said he was pleased the officer’s actions were justified.

"While what happened to Mr McArtney is regrettable, the dog handler made the right decisions based on the information he had at the time," he said.

"Police are required to make difficult decisions every day and every night to protect the safety of the public and bring offenders to account."

Chambers said the dog handler was an experienced police officer and the dog was fully certified at the time and subsequently passed re-certification.

- The Nelson Mail

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