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Salt Lake City Suspends Use of Police Dogs in Arrests After Black Man Is Bitten

2020-08-13 18:52:26

The authorities in Salt Lake City suspended the use of police dogs in arrests after one bit a Black man who was on one knee with his hands in the air during an incident in April, the mayor said on Wednesday.

Mayor Erin Mendenhall of Salt Lake City said that the use of police dogs “to engage with suspects” would be suspended until officials could review city policies and practices.

Ms. Mendenhall said that a police officer involved was also suspended from duty pending an investigation into the incident. The police did not name the officer.

The announcements came a day after The Salt Lake Tribune published an account of what happened, including police body camera footage that showed an officer handling a police dog as it bit a Black man, identified by the police as Jeffery Ryans, 36, on the evening of April 24.

“We will conduct a thorough review of the breakdown in communication to ensure that it does not happen again,” Ms. Mendenhall said in a statement. “I am disturbed by what I saw in that video, frustrated by how the situation was handled, and am committed to working to ensure neither happen again.”

In a statement on Wednesday, the Salt Lake City Police Department said it had placed the officer on administrative leave after the department’s leaders became aware of the incident a day earlier. The department said it was conducting an internal investigation, although no complaint had been filed about an excessive use of force.

The Salt Lake County district attorney was also reviewing the case, according to the Police Department.

In the video, a male officer can be seen shining a flashlight and shouting, “Get on the ground or you’re going to get bit,” as officers approach Mr. Ryans in the backyard of a house.

Another officer can be heard saying, “Get on the ground,” and Mr. Ryans kneels on one leg with his hands up next to a white fence.

One officer can be heard making an apparent command to the dog, which lunges at Mr. Ryans.

“I’m on the ground. Why are you biting me?” Mr. Ryans asks, before yelling in pain and pleading, “Stop!”

One officer can be heard saying, “Good boy” repeatedly as Mr. Ryans yells and is handcuffed on the ground.

The police did not immediately respond to questions about what preceded the confrontation or why officers were at the house.

Daniel S. Garner, a lawyer for Mr. Ryans, said in an interview Thursday that the police may have gone to the house because someone may have heard Mr. Ryans and his wife arguing or because she had placed a protective order against him last winter.

“We don’t know if it’s because they heard them argue or they knew he had a protective order and saw him,” he said. “We know there was an argument and we also know that no violence took place.”

Speaking of the protective order, Mr. Garner said that Mr. Ryans and his wife were “under the impression that it was lifted because she had requested it to be lifted.”

Gabriel K. White, another lawyer for Mr. Ryans, said in a statement that Mr. Ryans had been getting ready to go to his job as a train engineer when the police arrived at the residence.

“The officer’s body camera footage shows that Mr. Ryans complied with officers’ orders and was not a threat to the multiple armed officers who confronted him in the middle of the night,” Mr. White said in the statement.

Mr. Ryans, according to his lawyers, had several bite marks on his leg from the dog, as well as other injuries.

“His life is never going to be the same,” Mr. Garner said, adding that Mr. Ryans had nerve damage and could not feel his ankle when he walked.

He said the lawyers had filed a notice of claim in court ahead of a planned lawsuit against the police; and the police said they were aware of Mr. Ryans’s intention to sue. Mr. Ryans’s lawyers said the department and its employees “were negligent in failing to appropriately subdue and arrest Mr. Ryans.”

The notice, Mr. Garner said, was made “in hopes they take responsibility for what they have done.”

Mr. Ryans told The Tribune that he wanted to speak out because of months of protests, in the city and around the country, against police violence and racism since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody in May.

“People need to know Black lives matter,” Mr. Ryans said. “Everybody matters, but you can’t just treat people differently because of their religion or their skin color.”


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