At least 37 video-recorded attacks by police K-9s have surfaced over three years. Many of them show people under attack although they are unarmed, have surrendered to police, are already handcuffed, or are innocent bystanders, reports the Washington Post. Similar to the way footage of chokeholds and fatal shootings has led to a reassessment of police tactics, video of attacking police dogs and physical injuries is beginning to alter the positive image of K-9s. For decades this image has blunted the scrutiny of the 15,000 police dogs working in the U.S. The image started to shift several months ago in Salt Lake City. The video showed Jeffery Ryans, a 36-year-old Black man, putting his hands in the air and kneeling on the ground as he told officers he was surrendering. A German shepherd was unleashed on him anyway, chomping on his left leg, causing injuries that required surgeries in an attempt to repair nerve, muscle and tendon damage.
“I believe when people view videos like this they will feel disgusted, distressed, shocked and angered,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, who called the videos “a catalyst for change.” Mayor Mendenhall concluded, saying, “I believe we are at a tipping point.” The Salt Lake City K-9 handler has been charged with felony aggravated assault. The city’s K-9 program has been suspended. Police referred 100 videos from an additional 18 police dog attacks to the district attorney for possible prosecution. Videos show officers siccing dogs on individuals after they surrendered or were under physical control of officers. The Post reviewed 18 other cases captured on video. In most, officers were cleared of wrongdoing and police departments announced no changes to their K-9 programs. In a few cases, the people who were bitten received financial settlements. An estimated 40,000 people were treated for K-9 attacks in hospital emergency rooms from 2009 to 2018.