Many city K-9 units average one dog bite every three years. In Indianapolis, the average is every five days. That is the highest police dog bite rate in the nation’s 20 largest cities.
Between 2017 and 2019, dogs in the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD)’s K-9 unit bit 243 people. In contrast, the K-9 units in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, San Antonio, San Francisco, and Washington, DC, had one bite each, or less, in that three-year period.
Victims Not Suspected of Serious Crimes
Police dogs are generally used to chase suspects on the run. If the dog finds the individual, they are usually trained to bite the person, subduing them so the officer can make an arrest. Most cities limit the use of K-9s to those suspected of committing felonies or crimes of violence.
In Indianapolis, that is not the case. Two-thirds of police dog bite victims are suspected of low-level crimes, including traffic violations. They do not have weapons, are not violent, and they are not threatening law enforcement officers. As one critic put, “These are not hardened criminals.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, while Black people make up 28 percent of Indianapolis’ population, they account for more than half of police dog bites. Fifteen percent of these bite victims are juveniles, and 75 percent of the bitten juveniles are Black. From slave hunters to the civil rights movements, attack dogs have long been used against Black people in the U.S.
Sometimes, the victims are not criminal suspects in any sense –the dogs bit the wrong people. That not only includes innocent bystanders, but fellow police officers. In 2015, a dog veered from chasing a suspect and instead attacked a heavily pregnant woman. Besides requiring numerous surgeries, the attack put her into early labor.
The 23 German shepherds, Belgian Malinois, and Dutch shepherds currently making up the IMPD K-9 unit come with a price tag of about $10,000 each. They are trained to find someone running from officers and bite down on them, if necessary, until the police arrest them.
Police dog bites can cause serious injury, and some may prove fatal. However, the terrorization accompanying being chased and hunted down by a dog is often as bad as the bite. Many bite victims develop PTSD and other long-term mental and emotional problems due to the dog attack.
A civil rights attorney alleges that the IMPD used the dogs to enact a form of “street justice.” The dog is permitted to maul the person as punishment for running.
One victim said he recognizes fellow Indianapolis police dog bite victims by their mangled arms and legs.
No More Misdemeanor Deployment
After the expose concerning the IMPD K-9 unit was published by the IndyStar, IMPD Chief Randal Taylor released a statement on October 7 that the department is changing policy regarding the use of K-9s.
Those suspected of a misdemeanor offense will no longer have a dog sicced on them. That is not the language Taylor used, but it is essentially the same. The only exception is the belief that the suspect is armed. The use of dogs continues in all suspected felony cases.
Were you or a family member injured in police custody or as an inmate?
If you are injured or a family member is wrongfully killed or suffers an injury during an arrest, while you are in custody, or when you are in state or federal jail or prison – you can sue. Contact our lawyers at 866.836.4684 or online to learn more.