St. Paul Police Restrict When Dogs Can Be Used
ST. PAUL (AP) — The St. Paul Police Department has restricted when police dogs can be used to apprehend suspects — a move that comes after two high-profile cases involving K-9 bites.
The new policy says dogs can be used to catch a fleeing person who's suspected of murder, manslaughter, aggravated robbery, kidnapping, criminal sexual conduct or a drive-by shooting. It also lists felonies in which dogs can't be used, with exceptions.
Most of the changes were instituted in April.
Last year, the city approved a $2 million settlement for Frank Baker after he was mistaken for a suspect and bitten by a K-9, requiring hospitalization. In September, Desiree Collins was taking out her garbage when she was attacked by a police dog looking for a male suspect. Her pending lawsuit seeks financial damages and changes to the department's K-9 policy.
"While canines are a valuable part of our public safety toolbox, history has shown the importance of deploying them only with the highest standards of accountability, transparency, and respect for the communities they serve," Mayor Melvin Carter said in a statement. "I appreciate the changes Chief (Todd) Axtell has made to department policy to ensure we learn from, and never repeat the lessons of our country's painful past."
Sgt. Mike Ernster, a police spokesman, said the new restrictions will mean police dogs will be biting people less often.
"The significant changes are to ensure that we are keeping our community and officers safe while only using K-9s to physically apprehend people when absolutely necessary," he said.
David Ferland, executive director of the United States Police Canine Association, said K-9 policies vary nationwide. One tradeoff to a more restrictive policy is that it could mean police are "not able to catch as many bad guys," he said.