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Police cleared of wrongdoing in Surrey suspect's dog bite

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A Surrey RCMP officer did nothing wrong when he released his police dog to secure a suspect who was evading arrest last year, according to a review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. (IIO)

The incident, in which a 26-year-old man was pursued and held by the dog, took place on Oct. 18, 2013.

On that evening, Surrey RCMP responded to an abandoned 911 call to a neighbourhood near King George Boulevard and 96 Avenue. It was reported an adult male had fled out the balcony door of a home with a woman's phone.

When police arrived, a service dog began to track the suspect, eventually going into a community garden area. Within an hour of arriving the man was located and emergency personnel was called for a dog bite to his lower left leg that later required surgery.

The IIO is responsible for conducting investigations into all police officer-related incidents that result in death or serious harm. In this case, the man's dog bite injuries met the definition of "serious harm."

Four witness police officers and four civilian witnesses were interviewed for the Surrey investigation, and video surveillance from the area was also reviewed.

In the IIO review, chief civilian director Richard Rosenthal said the suspect was hiding in the garden at night, making it difficult for the officer to see his hands or any weapons he may have carried.

"The affected person was being sought for serious violations that warranted the use and deployment of a police service dog," said Rosenthal. "Police communications corroborate that the affected person was actively evading arrest at the time he was confronted by the [officer] and his dog."

Rosenthal said allowing the man to escape could have endangered the female resident of the home and allowed the suspect to "escape responsibility for a potentially serious offence." Grappling with the man alone in the dark would have been dangerous for both the man and officer, Rosenthal added, and may even have resulted in a need to use deadly force.

"I do not consider the subject officer may have committed an offence in relation to his PSD's (police service dog) actions in stopping the affected person from evading arrest," ruled Rosenthal.

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