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Audit of SLCPD K-9 program reveals 18 cases that warrant further investigation

SLCPD's K-9 apprehension program remains suspended
SLCPD body cam footage shows a K-9 attacking Jeffery Ryans
Posted at 11:25 AM, Sep 25, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake City Police Department has audited all of its K-9 bite incidents dating back through 2018, and two-thirds of them warrant further investigation for potential criminal acts, Chief Mike Brown announced Friday.

Chief Brown said the there were six K-9 bites in 2018, 10 in 2019 and 11 so far this year. Four of the bites in 2018, five of the bites in 2019 and nine of the bites this year will be referred to the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office for investigation.

"The officers involved in these cases, consistent with department practice, have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcomes of this investigation," Chief Brown said.

SLCPD's citizen review board and internal affairs department will also review the 18 incidents.

"Our city's referral for investigation of 18 K-9 cases from the past two years represents our concern that what has gone on in the recent history of the Salt Lake City Police Department's K-9 apprehension program is a pattern of abuse of power," Mayor Erin Mendenhall said.

Mendenhall urged victims of SLCPD K-9 attacks to contact the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office.

"We will review all materials provided to our office in connection with our records request and we will act as appropriate and necessary to fulfill and perform our statutory duties consistent with the law. This means carefully reviewing and investigating allegations of criminal conduct consistent with our role as public prosecutors. The DA Office will file charges on any case that rise to the level of criminal activity," Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill wrote in a statement.

The department's K-9 apprehension program was suspended in August after a violent body camera video surfaced. In the video, Officer Nickolas Pearce is heard commanding his K-9 "Tuco" to bite a man who was on his knees and complying with officers. Jeffery Ryans, whom police were apprehending on suspicion of violating a protective order, suffered large lacerations in the incident and required hospitalization.

Pearce was suspended from the police force and, earlier this month, charged with aggravated assault.

Chief Brown said Friday that the department's K-9 apprehension program will remain suspended indefinitely.