The police have belatedly released a shocking tape from 2015 that was the basis for an almost $400,000 settlement with a man who was found naked and high on LSD. Even though the man clearly did not have a weapon, the police proceeded to order a K-9 to attack him and bite him for 40 seconds. The disturbing videotape is below. There is no record of any officer being fired for this clearly excessive use of force.
In August 2015, police responded to a morning call about a man screaming and running through a canyon. The man had no clothes and clearly no weapon. The man is a 25-year-old businessman in San Diego for a convention and was still tripping on LSD from a party the night before. The officers start out with encouraging and professional efforts to get the man to come to them. The man refuses and then a police dog is allowed to attack as the man screams. Despite his falling to the ground, the dog is not pulled back, though officers are seem attempting to pull him back. What is most striking is that no warning was given despite standard police of “at least two warnings in a loud and clear manner” before allowing a K-9 to bite someone. No warning of any kind is heard in the clip.
All of this explains why the San Diego City Council last week approved a $385,000 settlement. It was a deal. The man was in the hospital for two weeks and his leg is permanently disabled.
Police departments around the country reduced K-9 units after a series of lawsuits. The ability to train a dog to attack humans but control the animal is a highly uncertain process. Police dogs were the basis of lawsuit where they attacked without orders or refused to pull back when ordered. San Diego itself settled a lawsuit in the 1990s for $3.6 million and agreed to “revamp its policy for the use of force by dogs.”
Ultimately the victim was never charged. However, the city maintains that “At all times, the conduct of the defendants was reasonable, lawful, based on probable cause and within the scope of their official duties and employment.”
It is not clear why it took so long for the public to see this important and disturbing videotape, but, as we have discussed, police have been increasingly limiting the release of such videos or the names of officers involved. This week San Diego Police Department spokesman Lt. Scott Wahl issued the following statement:
“This video shows the agitated and defiant demeanor of a man under the influence of LSD. When played in its entirety, the video shows our officers trying to gain his compliance before he became defiant. While the split second decisions of police officers are easy to second guess when you know the outcome, keep in mind the deployment of our K9 is intended to prevent the situation from escalating.”
That last statement would seems to undermine any argument that there is reform in this area. The K9 was the escalation. You be the judge.
WARNING: The full video is extremely graphic and disturbing.