SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – The Salt Lake City Police Department suspended its use of police dogs amid an investigation into allegations of excessive force.
The allegations stem from an arrest in April in which officers ordered a K9 to attack a man who was kneeling and had already put his hands in the air. The officer-involved incident, documented in officer body camera footage, was first revealed in a Salt Lake Tribune report this week.
Jeffrey Ryans, 36, was arrested by SLCPD officers in the backyard of his home in the early morning hours of April 24 after police responded to a domestic violence call.
A frantic 9-1-1 caller reported that Ryans was “doing very bad things” to the family and he wasn’t supposed to be at the house because he has a restraining order against him.
Officers confronted Ryans outside the house took him into custody. Ryans’ attorneys said during the arrest, he was bitten several times by a K9 resulting in severe injury to his leg.
The videos capture Ryans howling in pain during the encounter. Ryans can be heard yelling, “I am on the ground! Why are you biting me?” referring to the Tuco, the K9, biting his leg.
LISTEN & WATCH: Salt Lake City police release 911 call and bodycam footage of the incident
WARNING: Video contains explicit language. Viewer discretion is advised.
“The use of force by the police through the K9 was an abuse of power and unnecessary use of force which severely swayed from The Salt Lake City Police Department training protocol, supervision protocol, and standard of care,” said attorneys with White & Garner, LLC. in a statement.
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said she was “deeply concerned” that it took a news outlet publishing the video for it to be brought to her attention and the attention of senior police department leadership.
Ryans’ attorneys submitted a notice of claim to the city, prompting the police department to launch an internal affairs investigation. The department said no prior complaint was ever filed about the incident, but the internal affairs investigation will now “determine if the use of force was within policy and why the use of force was not referred to internal affairs at the time.”
The Salt Lake City Civilian Review Board will also have the opportunity to review the investigation and make a separate finding that will be sent to the Chief of Police Mike Brown for consideration.
The department said the officer involved in the arrest was placed on administrative leave pending the results of the investigations. The department’s K9 apprehension program was also suspended until policies, procedures, training, and actual application in the field can be fully reviewed.