The IPCA has found that a Police dog handler used unjustified and excessive force when he set an attack dog on a pregnant woman, seriously injuring her leg, in February 2021.

Ms Z sustained a serious dog bite injury that included multiple punctures and lacerations, blood loss, missing tissue, and nerve damage.

IPCA – Unjustified use of force in Christchurch

A Police dog handler, called Officer A in the report, located a couple wanted for a series of burglaries in a stolen car. He initiated a pursuit, which the IPCA ruled was an inappropriate tactic in the circumstances.

Police initially laid charges that the driver rammed a police car during this pursuit, but later withdrew the charges. The IPCA believes the dog handler lied about this to cover up his own wrongdoing:

Police initially charged the man for driving into the officer’s Police car. However, they later realised the damage to the cars was not consistent with the collision as described by the officer so the charges were withdrawn. We believe the officer deliberately drove into Mr Y’s car, in breach of policy, and his subsequent statements were false.

IPCA – Unjustified use of force in Christchurch

The pursuit ended when the stolen car was stopped using road spikes. When the car’s occupants then fled on foot, the dog handler used his dog to track them.

His dog let him to a hedge, where he released his attack dog to bite whoever was hiding behind it.

The woman who was attacked, called Ms Z in the report, says she had surrendered and told officers she was pregnant before the attack dog was set on her. She told the IPCA she is extremely fearful of dogs because of two previous incidents where she was the victim of a dog attack.

The dog handler’s version of events differed from this. Although the IPCA noted that they had concerns about the officers’ credibility, they were not able to establish which version of events was accurate. However, the IPCA also considered whether Officer A’s behaviour would have been justified if his version of events was accurate, and decided that even in that case he would have breached Police policy by releasing his attack dog to bite someone before seeing them.

Regardless of which account is accurate, there is no denying the serious injuries that were inflicted on Ms Z by Officer A’s attack dog.

The IPCA came to the conclusion that Officer A had acted unlawfully, and that his use of force was unjustified and excessive.

However, the decision of whether or not to prosecute Officer A for this was, as always, left with NZ Police.

In NZ Police’s response to this decision, it said “Police acknowledge the findings” but that the decision was made not to lay a criminal charge against one of their own. Officer A will continue to work as a dog handler, without legal repercussions.

NZ Police said nothing in their response about Officer A lying to the IPCA. Instead, as usual, most of their response is about trying to make the officer’s unjustified and unlawful actions appear justified.

This is yet another example of NZ Police’s corruption, where they refuse to hold their own officers responsible for criminal actions. If you or I had released a trained attack dog on this woman instead of a police officer having done so, it seems all but certain that NZ Police would have laid criminal charges.