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Police Service Dogs in the Use-of-Force Continuum

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Policy Review Volume: 16 Issue: 1 Dated: March 2005 Pages: 88-98
Jonathan K. Dorriety
Date Published
March 2005
11 pages
Based on an analysis of the history of police dogs in America and civil litigation in which the misuse of police dogs against suspects was alleged, this article presents guidelines for police agencies in determining where police dogs should be placed in the use-of-force continuum.
Under the legal precedent of Robinette v. Barnes (1988), a police dog is not viewed by the courts as a deadly weapon. The significantly low number of deaths due to the use of police dogs over the past 94 years of police-dog history in the United States confirms this view; however, under the guidelines of Graham v. Connor (1989), how a police dog should be used by its handler depends on the severity of the crime involved, the immediate threat posed by the suspect, and whether the suspect is actively attempting to evade arrest. There are two types of apprehension techniques taught in police-service dog training: bite-and-hold and circle-and-bark. Bite-and-hold is generally defined as the dog finding a suspect and biting and holding the suspect until commanded by the handler to release the hold. Circle-and-bark is generally defined as the dog finding a suspect and, if the suspect remains still, circling and barking until the handler takes control. In most cases, a dog trained to circle and bark will bite if the suspect flees or attempts to strike the dog. Handlers who use the bite-and-hold method as the general tactic for apprehension recognize that the dog must be within range of communications from the handler at all times. If the dog is going to become separated from the officer or be out of the officer's sight, the handler should not send the dog. Regardless of which method of apprehension is used with a police dog, the risk of death for the suspect is extremely low. Under current court precedents, the decision as to where or if police dogs belong in the force continuum will remain with the law enforcement agency. 20 references