Police dog attack sparks Vancouver lawsuit

CBC News//Posted: Jan 26, 2012

‘He was just circling me and kept biting me and kept biting me’

A construction worker is suing the Vancouver Police Department                                               for excessive use of force after his leg was ripped open by a police dog during his arrest.

Christopher Evans, 33, needed 100 staples to close the wounds on his leg following the attack on June 12, 2011 in the city’s Downtown Eastside, according to a statement issued by his lawyer, Doug King of the Pivot Legal Society.

King made no excuses for Evans’s behaviour the night he was arrested, saying his client had been visiting his sister and was trying to get home when he became frustrated with buses passing him by.

Evans admits he smashed the front of a bus with his skateboard and shattered the glass door of another bus.

He claims shortly afterwards he was skateboarding in a Downtown Eastside alleyway when he was surprised by a police dog that latched on to his leg.

“It scared the hell out of me, it was going psycho,” he said.

Evans says he dropped to the ground but the dog kept attacking him, biting him several times before police pulled off the dog.

“He was just circling me and kept biting me and kept biting me,” he recalled.

Photos taken shortly afterwards appear to show two large open wounds on his thigh and other cuts.

“It looked like a grenade went off in my pocket,” Evans told CBC News on Thursday morning.

“I know it was a stupid decision, and I shouldn’t have hit the bus, but the repercussions were way overboard. They shouldn’t have responded like that,” he said in a statement issued on Thursday morning.

Evans was initially charged with mischief, but Crown prosecutors stayed the charges after seeing the extent of his injuries, according to King.

The Vancouver Police Department has not yet been reached for comment.

Use of police dogs questioned

According to Pivot, dog bites comprise half the injuries reported by municipal police in British Columbia during arrests.

Figures from the Office for Police Complaints                                                                          show there have been more than 160 cases involving police dog bites and municipal police forces in B.C. in the past two years; six have resulted in official complaints.

“We have to think of the cost of all of this, not only to the person being bitten by the dog but the enormous health-care costs spent treating unnecessary injuries,” King said.

He believes police need to retrain their dogs to stop using the bite-and-hold technique in favour of the bark-and-hold method adopted in several American cities.

King also would like police forces in B.C. to rethink the way they deploy canine units.

“When the first responder becomes an individual with his police dog, in a lot of cases it seems almost inevitable a bite will take place,” King said.

“I think what we need to do is start looking at the police dog squad as more of a specialty unit, and not as a first responder arresting type unit, because it’s very difficult for them to do it without injury,” he said.

Pivot said it will serve the lawsuit on the City of Vancouver on Friday

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