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Salt Lake City Police Department suspends K-9 officer policy

(Screen grab from the body camera footage released by the attorneys of Jeffery Ryans)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Changes are on the way for the Salt Lake City Police Department to use K-9 officers.  The new changes for K-9 officers in Salt Lake City stem from a recent complaint about the officers using excessive force. 

The lawsuit against SLCPD states Jeffery Ryans was bit by a K-9 officer, Tuco, between 45 and 60 times on April 24, at the command of his handler.  Police were called because Ryans reportedly violated a protective order. 

In the body camera footage released by Ryans’ attorneys, you can hear him yelling, “I’m on the ground!  Why are you biting me?”.  Attorneys say those bites led to serious infections as well as causing nerve, muscle, and tendon damage on Ryans’ left leg. 

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall issued a statement, saying she’s disturbed by what she saw, frustrated at how the situation was handled, and will work to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

She writes, “Furthermore, I am deeply concerned that it took a news outlet publishing this video for it to be brought to the attention of senior police department leadership and myself. We will conduct a thorough review of the breakdown in communication to ensure that it does not happen again.”

As for the case itself, Salt Lake investigators say they’re not at liberty to talk about it because of the litigation against the city.  However, Deputy Chief Jeff Kendrick says no one ever filed a complaint with the department’s Internal Affairs Office.

He says, “We did not receive the complaint, and that’s another portion of it.  We’re looking at how the notification can work on our end.  We’re always striving to improve that process, as well.”

Kendrick said Salt Lake City Police Department launched its own investigation into the possible use of excessive force after reading about it in the Salt Lake Tribune. Additionally, Kendrick claims they would have investigated sooner had the complaint gone straight to the police department. 

“We would prefer that that would have happened so we could’ve done this review,” he says.

In the meantime, the department will suspend its policy on the use of K-9 officers to apprehend suspects while a third party reviews the policy. Dogs will still be used for all of their other duties in the meantime. 

“They’ll still be looking for explosives.  They’ll still be sniffing for narcotics,” says Kendrick.

Police say the Salt Lake County Attorney’s Office is also reviewing the case.