A police officer’s use of force in a 2021 Enderby arrest has been ruled as reasonable by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. (IIO).
Complaints of a suspicious van and stolen licence plate let to RCMP investigations on Nov. 11, 2021, according to the IIO decision.
The suspect, who was arrested that day, claimed he was walking to Tim Horton’s when “all of a sudden a police dog attacked me.”
“What made me mad was three officers watched this dog chew my arm for, like, half an hour or 45 minutes. That’s all I have to say … well, they were punching me. They just beat the s**t out of me,” the man told investigators.
Police were following up on complaints that the man had been seen stealing a licence plate and attaching it to the suspicious van, which had also been seen by police being driven on the highway at about 160 kilometres an hour.
A police officer found the van parked beside a home at a rural property near Enderby, and requested backup from a police service dog unit.
The officer was soon approached by the occupants of the home, and asked them to go back inside while the police dog tracked the suspect.
The suspect, who was wearing clothes that matched the description police were working with, was found “walking swiftly away … despite being told he was under arrest and to get on the ground.”
The man would not stop, so the police dog was released and bit the man on the arm, pulling him until he fell over backwards.
The suspect struggled with the officers and the police dog, prompting one officer to put his knee on the suspect’s back and eventually put him in a headlock.
The man was still resisting while officers attempted to handcuff him, so the arresting officer delivered “two to three closed fist strikes to the side of (the suspect’s) head.”
The minivan was found to have been stolen, and there were a number of makeshift weapons inside it.
The arrested man suffered a broken left arm and “a substantial laceration” from the dog bite. He had a laceration on his forehead requiring stitches as well as bruises and abrasions on his face and fractures of his right sinus and nasal bone. Medical records indicated that the man continued yelling and refusing to cooperate upon being admitted to hospital.
It was found the man had been arrested on a different matter three days earlier and at that time he had been photographed with a large cut on his forehead, abrasions on his cheek and the back of his head, a cut on the right side of his lip and bruising around his right eye and nose.
IIO Chief Civilian Director Ronald J. MacDonald said the man’s account of what happened “is contradicted by all other available evidence,” and ruled that use of the police dog was justifiable given that the man refused to stop when ordered to by police.
“Overall, this was not just a property crime case which might suggest this level of force was not called for. Rather, (the suspect) had stolen a vehicle, was creating risk to the public by driving dangerously, was clearly unwilling to stop for police when told to do so, and had a recent history of arrest for other offences,” the IIO decision states.
“In addition, he was warned to stop by police and did not, and it would have been obvious that they had a dog present. In those circumstances, it was reasonable for the dog to be used to prevent (the suspect) from escaping.”
The decision states that “a somewhat elevated level of force was necessary and proportionate” given the situation.
While the man claimed he was beaten by police and chewed on by the dog for 30 to 45 minutes, the IIO decision notes that according to police dispatch channel recordings, the entire incident lasted only a few minutes. MacDonald said it appears the blows struck by the officer did not contribute significantly to injuries the suspect had already sustained before the incident.
MacDonald ruled that the matter will not be referred to Crown counsel for consideration of charges.