A police dog brought in to assist in the search on Thursday for a lost shotgun in California took a bite out of a veteran police officer’s leg, causing a severe injury to the cop’s calf. The incident occurred as part of an effort to recover a loaded tactical shotgun which, due to a lock mechanism breaking, fell from its holster on a police motorcycle sometime on Thursday afternoon. The shotgun was ultimately recovered and the man who picked up the gun from the street has been charged with grand theft.
Officers were concentrating their search on streets in the southern area of Los Angeles near West Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and South Vermont Avenue. According to LAPD Lt. Andy Neiman, the K-9 unit was there to assist in the search when he bit the officer, who was not part of the K-9’s unit, causing a bite injury to a large part of the cop’s leg. At this point, it is not clear what caused the dog to bite the officer.
Using one of the 8,000 first response trauma kits which were approved for use by officers earlier in the year by the Police Commission, the bitten officer’s partner was able to fashion a tourniquet for the wounded officer’s leg. One police department official believes that having the tourniquet and using it right away most likely saved the life of the officer, who was transported to a hospital where he had surgery for his wound. The LAPD K-9 officer has been suspended.
This is not the first instance in which a police dog turned on an officer while on the job. In September of 2013, a police officer in Anaheim, Calif., was bitten by a K-9 officer while in pursuit of a parolee. In this case, officers with the Gang Unit were following a parolee when they attempted to stop his car for a traffic violation. The man exited his car and began to run, causing a foot pursuit to ensue in which a police dog attacked an officer. The cop was not seriously injured in the incident.
Also in 2013, a Palm Bay, Fla., police officer was injured during the search for a suspect when a police dog bit him in the groin. The officers was transported to the hospital where he was released soon after being treated.
Police dogs are trained to capture suspects using one powerful bite, which can exert pressure of 1,100 pounds per square inch, giving any bite the potential to do a good deal of damage in just a few seconds. The dogs are trained to then hold on to that bite until it is given the command to release. K-9 dogs are selected for their intense focus on the job at hand, and that focus can become so trained on the objective at hand that any sort of distraction can turn into a target. Experts say that it is important to bear in mind that a wayward police dog bite is not as much of a sign of aggression as it is a mark of the intensity of the dog, which is a large part of why a dog is selected to do K-9 work in the first place.
By Jennifer Pfalz