Pivot Legal Society calls on Province to release police dog bite stats, recommends body cameras for dog units

Vancouver, B.C., Coast Salish Territories [October 24, 2016]—In a letter to British Columbia’s director of police services, Pivot is asking the province to release newly gathered statistics on police dog use and review how the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) is deploying police service dogs.

The call for review was prompted by an incident last month involving a VPD police service dog that was deployed during an incident on September 19. Vick Supramaniam was mistaken as a suspect by police officers, who released a police dog to apprehend him. The dog bit and tore off a portion of Mr. Supramaniam’s ear, then grabbed him by the leg and pulled him across the ground.

The incident occurred a year after the Province of B.C. introduced provincial regulations for the training and deployment of police service dogs, meant to limit the situations in which they would be used. The regulations were introduced following Pivot’s comprehensive report of the use of police service dogs, Moving to Minimum Force: Police Dogs and Public Safety in British Columbia. The report found the VPD had the highest rate of police dog bite incidents in the province over a five-year period, nearly twice the rate of the RCMP’s dog unit.

The regulations also called for each department to send statistics on police dog bites to the Province, annually, for comparative purposes. As a year has passed since the implementation, each department with a dog squad should have reported their statistics on police dog use, but as of yet the Province has not made those statistics public.

“We’re calling on the province to review the Vancouver Police Department—and to make that review public—to ensure VPD training and deployment of police dogs complies with new guidelines meant to limit injury to members of the public,” says Doug King, police accountability lawyer at Pivot Legal Society.

In addition to calling for the release of the statistics and an audit of the VPD’s dog squad, Pivot is recommending the implementation of a pilot project to study body-worn cameras on members of the department’s dog squad.

“The VPD’s reporting of events involving their police dog squad often differs from the victim of a dog bite,” says Mr. King. “From our experience speaking with individuals bitten by police dogs, it is a common refrain that they maintain they were compliant and posed no threat when a dog was released upon them. Body-worn cameras would increase transparency and accountability—which we should expect of our public institutions.”

A copy of Pivot’s letter to Clayton Pecknold, director of Police Services for the Province, can be found here.

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About Pivot Legal Society
Pivot Legal Society is a leading Canadian human rights organization that uses the law to address the root causes of poverty and social exclusion in Canada. Pivot’s award winning work includes challenging laws and policies that force people to the margins of society and keep them there. Since 2002 Pivot has won major victories for sex workers’ rights, police accountability, affordable housing, and health and drug policy.

For additional information or to schedule an interview, please contact:

Douglas King, Lawyer: 778-898-6349, doug@pivotlegal.org