Police Abuse

Florida K-9 Handlers Sure Seemed to Enjoy Mauling This Suicidal Young Man



The officers claimed there were no lights in the garage, which makes the existence of this photo a mite bit confusing.
Herald Tribune

Not mad enough at excessive law enforcement behavior and reports of misconduct today? Let's head down to Florida (again, for those who read Ed Krayewski's post about Bal Harbour earlier today) and check in with the K-9 unit of North Port. The Sarasota-based Herald Tribune analyzed five years of dog bites reported by police K-9 units and found that North Port (population 59,000) had much higher numbers than nearby communities.

When the Herald Tribune investigated why this was happening, it discovered remarkably lax policies on when attack dogs should be used, and even more dangerously, officers who seemed to enjoy freeing their dogs to attack suspects. In a story posted earlier in the year the newspaper reported:

North Port handlers commanded their police dogs to attack unarmed juveniles and citizens whom police did not have sufficient evidence to charge with a crime. In at least two cases, police dogs bit unarmed, suicidal citizens.

And they have department policies on their side.

North Port's police canine policies state canines may "assist in the pursuit, apprehension or prevent the escape of a person reasonably believed to have committed a crime." That is an uncommon amount of leeway when compared to model policy set forth by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

The people hurt in these attacks claim permanent injuries. And over this holiday weekend, the newspaper published contents of texts between two K-9 officers who were clearly showed that they were looking forward to the possibility of having their dogs attack an 18-year-old young man. His mother had called the police because she feared her son was suicidal. The man, Jared Lemay, was wanted for a probation violation. K-9 handlers Keith Bush and Michael Dietz responded:

On this day, before he or any other officer reached Jared Lemay's home, Bush sent a message to fellow K-9 handler Michael Dietz: "COME GET UR BITE."

Minutes later, records show, Bush messaged Dietz again: "IM GONNA TAKE UR BITE IF U DONT HURRY UP."

Dietz got their first and got his bite. Lemay was hiding in a trash can in the garage. The dog mauled Lemay's face and shoulder. An officer later messaged Deitz "CONGRATS!." And there was this exchange later:

"YOUR BITE OR (Dietz's)?" McHale inquired.

"I LET (Dietz) HAVE IT," Bush replied.

"NICE, HOW BAD?" McHale asked.

"BAD," Bush wrote. "FACE AND BACK."

"SKIN GRAFT BAD?" McHale asked.

"NO," Bush wrote.

"COULDA BEEN WORSE THEN, HE SHOULD HAVE COMPLIED," McHale said, ending the conversation.

Two other victims of police dog maulings in North Port have filed federal lawsuits against the city. One of them was mauled when police responded to a suicide attempt. The other was mauled by a police dog during an investigation of a hit and run. The police's account of the situation variess widely from the woman says happened in this case. The same holds true in Lemay's case. According to the Herald Tribune, Lemay has begun the first steps in suing North Port.  

The Herald Tribune has a page devoted to their coverage of North Port's use of K-9 units here.

(Hat tip to former Reason Editor Radley Balko)