Invercargill police used illegal and unjustified excessive
force by letting a police dog bite and drag a suspected
burglar for almost a minute, an Independent Police Conduct
Authority probe has concluded.
Blair Taylor was seriously injured in the 2011 incident and
required surgery for arm injuries.
In his report, released today (Monday), IPCA chairman Judge
Sir David Carruthers said the police dog deployment for
approximately 50 seconds was "unjustified" and "an excessive
use of force".
The incident started when police were called to an alleged
burglary in Tay Street, Invercargill at 10.23pm on April 2,
A police dog handler warned Mr Taylor inside the property
that the dog would be released if he did not come outside,
the IPCA report says.
A few minutes later a second officer saw Mr Taylor leaving
the address and he was subsequently arrested.
Having received information that Mr Taylor had exited the
premises, the dog handler and his dog ran onto Tay Street
towards Mr Taylor who was being held by the other officer.
"The dog then barked, jumped and lunged at Mr Taylor who
failed to comply with the officers' instruction to get onto
the ground," the report says.
A third officer then tackled Mr Taylor from behind in an
unsuccessful attempt to get him onto the ground.
The dog gripped on to Mr Taylor's upper right arm.
"Over the next 50 seconds the dog was allowed to maintain a
bite hold on Mr Taylor, during which time Mr Taylor was
dragged one to two metres to the footpath where he was
secured, handcuffed and searched and a small ornament was
He was taken to hospital where he underwent surgery for dog
During the investigation, the dog handler said he thought Mr
Taylor had a knife.
Even though other officers had grabbed Mr Taylor, the dog
handler said he deployed the dog because he thought they were
The IPCA found that the actions of several officers did not
comply with the law or police policies.
"In the circumstances, the Authority is unable to reach a
clear conclusion that the initial deployment of the police
dog was unjustified," Sir David said.
"However, the Authority found that the dog handler should
have warned other police staff of his belief that Mr Taylor
was in the possession of a knife and he was negligent in not
"The Authority also found that there were sufficient staff
present to subdue and restrain Mr Taylor and that the
evidence does not support the dog handler's view that
officers were at risk.
"The continued use of a police dog for about 50 seconds was
therefore unnecessary and an excessive use of force.
"The failure to remove the dog caused Mr Taylor unnecessary
The report also found the actions of the officer who tackled
Mr Taylor "were premature and excessive" and the "likely
catalyst" for the escalation of the incident.
Southern Police today released a statement which said it
accepted the IPCA report findings.
It said six officers, as well as the police dog, were
involved in the arrest of Mr Taylor, who "had been drinking
and was uncooperative".
"This was a fast-moving and challenging situation that played
out over a relatively short period of time and involved
numerous police staff who were trying to safely arrest Mr
Taylor," said district commander, Superintendent Andrew
"While our staff are well-trained and strive to do their best
in all situations, we acknowledge that in this case, after
reviewing events, that some of our tactical decision-making
was not as good as it should have been, and exacerbated the
situation, rather than de-escalating it as quickly as it
"The officers involved have had the opportunity to reflect on
what occurred and learn from the situation."
A subsequent review of the police investigation into the
incident found no criminal prosecution was warranted under
the Crown Law guidelines for prosecution.
The IPCA has made no recommendations based on its findings in
relation to this matter.
"However, police will take the lessons from this situation on
board to minimise the possibility of any recurrence in
future," Mr Coster said.