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Denver police K-9 handler suspended for 10 days after allowing dog to bite man who was surrendering

Posted at 4:48 PM, Jul 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-03 20:57:31-04

DENVER – A Denver Police Department K-9 handler faces a 10-day suspension after he allowed his police dog to bite a man who was in the process of surrendering to police.

DPD Technician David Miller was notified of the suspension in a June 3 letter from Deputy Director of the Department of Safety Mary Dulacki. Miller has already appealed the decision.

According to the letter and to body camera video obtained by Contact7 Investigates, the incident occurred on Nov. 1, 2018 as officers were tracking a stolen U-Haul van across the metro area with the Denver Police Department’s helicopter.

Denver police K-9 handler suspended for 10 days after allowing dog to bite man who was surrendering

The vehicle stopped somewhere in Westminster and the driver of the stolen vehicle got out. Two officers approached the man and told him to show his hands and get on the ground.

The disciplinary letter says that the suspect put his hands in the air “immediately after the officers exited the police vehicle” and got on his knees, then put his hands behind his head.

It was at that point that Miller and his unleashed dog arrived at the scene. The disciplinary letter says, and body camera video confirms, the suspect was on his way to the ground as Miller and his canine approached.

As another officer put his hand on the suspect’s shoulders to help him to the ground, the canine turned toward Miller after he gave a command. The dog continued to look back toward the suspect and the other officers, but Miller gave no further command, so the dog started biting the man as he screamed.

“Though these events were rapidly evolving, in a manner of seconds, Technician Miller failed to adequately assess the situation as he exited his patrol vehicle and as he advanced on the suspect,” the disciplinary letter says. “It was neither necessary or reasonable for Technician Miller to permit his [police dog] to physically engage the suspect.”

Dulacki determined Miller used inappropriate force in arresting the man and broke a rule in the Metro/SWAT Canine Unit Manual requiring K-9 officers to comply with the department’s use of force policy.

“Technician Miller had the opportunity to redirect the PSD when he issued a command and the PSD responded by pausing and looking back at his handler; however, Technician Miller failed to either redirect the PSD or command the PSD to return to him,” the letter says.

It was recommended that Miller face 10-day suspensions for each of the violations – but they would run concurrently. The letter also noted that Miller did not turn on his body camera during the incident and was given an oral reprimand.

Miller’s suspension was set to be served from July 4-13. But now that he has appealed, his case enters a process that could result in more appeals depending on what the Civil Service Commission decides.