Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton

Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton

Taking bites out of enforcement

Oceanside RCMP have access to dogs from Courtenay and Nanaimo detachments

B.C. became the first province in the country to enforce standards for police dogs Thursday.

This comes after a study found police service dog bites are the leading cause of injury at the hands of Mounties, exceeding all other forms of non-lethal force including batons and pepper spray.

The report, Moving to Minimum Force, conducted by Pivot Legal Society, found from 2010 to 2012 at least 490 people were bitten and injured by police dogs in the province.

According to the society’s research “police service dogs constitute a weapon of significant force and … grievous injury and hospitalization due to police dog injury is commonplace.”

Moreover, Pivot discovered through the course of the study that “British Columbia lacks a uniform system of reporting and recording police dog bites” and from 2010 to 2012 “accidental bites” and cases where a police dog bit the wrong subject didn’t require a report suggesting 490 may be a modest number.

GraphReleased by the provincial government last week, the new standards include guiding principles, dog handler responsibilities and perhaps most notably specific guidelines regarding when a dog can be deployed and/or bite. Furthermore, the standards set out stringent reporting rules — police agencies will be required to complete a detailed report for each bite incident and provide related data to the province. Lastly, police dogs must demonstrate their continuous ability to be called off a person, remain under control while biting and promptly release a bite upon hearing commands.

Oceanside RCMP Jesse Foreman confirmed Parksville’s detachment does not have any police service dogs, but officers have access to police dogs from Coutenay and Nanaimo detachments.

Foreman said police dogs are generally called upon in the case of a fleeing suspect.

RCMP senior media relations officer Sgt. Rob Vermeulen said he supports the implementation of new police dog standards.

“We will work with the RCMP police dog service training centre to ensure that all future police dogs and handlers are fully aware and compliant with the new standards,” said Vermeulen in an e-mail to The NEWS. “We are confident that the RCMP will be fully compliant with the standards.”

The new regulations are slated to come into effect as of Sept. 1, 2015 allowing police detachments sufficient time to adjust their existing policy and training requirements.

Each B.C. police agency with a dog squad had a representative on the working group that deliberated and drafted the standards. In turn, the draft standards were refined through consultation with the Advisory Committee on Provincial Policing Standards and other stakeholders.