Use of police dog in Rotterdam arrest laughing gas arrest was excessive: report
The Rotterdam police used excessive violence when they deployed a police dog in the arrest of a man in March, television program Zembla reported based on video footage of the arrest. According to Zembla, this violent arrest got absolutely no publicity, not even a statement released by the police.
The 32-year-old suspect was arrested for causing nuisance while under the influence of laughing gas, according to the program. He was arrested in a parked car. Video footage show a police dog jumping through the car's open window. The man was pulled out of the car. The police used a taser on the man and threw him to the ground. The suspect received multiple blows to the face while on the ground, and all the while the police dog continued to bite him - even though its handler repeatedly commanded it to release, Zembla reported.
Police scientist Jaap Timmer viewed the footage for Zembla. "We see a neatly parked car with nowhere to go, with about five officers around it," he said to the program. "If you can't handle this man without a dog, then you don't understand your trade. I don't see any need for the use of any form of violence." Timmer called it an illegal use of force, maybe even a form of torture.
The police and Public Prosecution Service told the program that an internal investigation is underway into the behavior of the dog and its handler. Compensation was paid to the man, and the dog handler was not prosecuted.
According to Zembla, there were multiple incidents in which a police dog did not listen to the command to release during an arrest. The program's research showed that police dogs rarely release on a first command, and in some cases continue to bite for minutes after being ordered to release. The police do not register which of their around 400 police dogs don't respond well to the release command, Zembla said.
In a statement released by the police in response to Zembla's investigation, the police said that there were 357 incidents in which a police dog bit a suspect last year. That is about 1 percent of the force used by the police last year. "That shows how reticent we are with the use of this means of force," said Ronald Verheggen, who is responsible for training dogs at the police. According to him, the command to bite and release happens correctly in the vast majority of cases. "Occasionally you have to conclude that things could have gone differently."
According to Verheggen, the dogs and their handlers receive intensive training, and have to take an exam every two years to make sure their skills are up to scratch. But he added: "Every means of violence that we use carries risks. The dog is and will remain an animal. There is always an element of unpredictability in it."
After a complaint from a man who was bitten in the leg by a police dog, the Ombudsman advised that the use of police dogs be included in the police's Official Instructions, like the use of all other means of force. Giving the command to bite is a severe use of force and can have serious consequences for the citizen, the Ombudsman concluded in a report.
"Since then we have been using that report as a framework for the deployment of dogs," Verheggen said. But he added that the police should have formalized the use of dogs sooner.