Utah lawmakers consider more K-9 training requirements after audit

A bill approved Tuesday also lifts liability from officers if a K-9 ignores the officer’s commands

By Suzie Ziegler 

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers approved a bill Tuesday that will require annual certification for Utah police dogs and their handlers, according to the Associated Press. Utah K-9 units came under scrutiny after bodycam video of a K-9 biting a suspect surfaced in August. 

The video drew condemnation from city officials and led to the suspension of the Salt Lake City K-9 program. 

The man who was bitten, 36-year-old Jeffery Ryans, suffered nerve and tendon damage, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. Police were trying to arrest Ryans because he wasn’t legally allowed to be at a residence. 

The bill approved Tuesday also amends provisions so that an officer can’t be held liable for a dog’s actions if the K-9 goes against the officer’s commands, according the Associated Press. 

“The idea of holding an officer liable for something that they did not have control over is concerning to me,” bill sponsor Republican Sen. Daniel Thatcher said during the virtual meeting. “At the same time what brought this attention to this issue was not something that the dog did. It was a command given by the handler.” 

About a month after Ryans’ video surfaced, police identified 34 other bite cases over the past four years and released video for 18 of them, reports the Associated Press. 

All 34 of the cases remain under investigation. In the meantime, the agency’s police dog apprehension program is suspended indefinitely. Six officers involved in the cases have also been placed on administrative leave, according to the Associated Press.

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