Justice

Viral Post Shows Shocking Video of Man Getting Attacked by Police Dog While in Handcuffs

Warning: This post features violent imagery associated with police brutality.

Examples of police brutality caught on tape have sadly become a disturbing, upsetting entry in the landscape of viral videos.

While most situations of police force gone awry include an attack between an officer and civilian, rarely do instances occur where the captured footage is of a K9 team — a police dog and their corresponding officer — behaving in what appears to be an inappropriate fashion.

That’s why a recent Facebook post is going viral: it depicts a San Diego police dog attacking a handcuffed man.

The video was originally posted by Angel Nuñez on the evening of July 9 and features a German Shepherd police dog latched onto the arm of a black man who is handcuffed as bystanders ask why the dog isn’t being taken off.

The situation escalates to where the handcuffed man screams that he is “uncomfortable” as the dog appears to bear down further onto his arm. The officer handling the dog appears to have some difficulty extracting the animal.

“There is something definitely wrong with this picture,” Nuñez posted under the video, adding, “The officer doesn't seem to have the proper training. Also that dog is not well trained.”

The original video has over 650,000 views and went on to be re-shared to the page The Black Community where it received over two million views, 8,600 reactions, over 42,000 shares, and 7,800 comments in two days.

The situation is disturbing and, unfortunately, the animal was doing its job — correctly.

According to The San Diego Union Tribune, the dog’s brutal behavior adhered to the police department’s policy.

“Canines are extremely effective at deescalating situations and preventing elevated levels of force to take people into custody,” Lt. Scott Wahl, a San Diego police officer, explained to the Tribune, noting that police animals are a bit more violent than they appear.

The Tribune also noted that witnesses at the scene reported the handcuffed man had previously been running in and out of traffic, punched a cab driver, and attempted to steal a motorcycle. The man challenged officers to fight and was warned to stop or the dog would be released.

Former K9 officers believe the situation was justified. Dog bite and forensic experts don't.

Lt. Eddie Brock of the San Diego Sheriff’s Department’s Communication Center believes that everything went as planned and notes that myriad factors are at play when a K9 team is brought into a crime scene. Although, he had not seen the footage, his feeling was that the situation was a product of the environment.

“The dogs are trained to respond to how the handlers respond,” Brock tells ATTN:, speaking from his experience supervising a K9 unit for three years. “Sometimes the handlers might be distracted. In looking over the shoulder, the leash might have been relaxed and the dog might have under performed or over reacted. The suspect might have moved or done something or continued acting out.”

David “Lou” Ferland, national executive director of the U.S. Police Canine Association and former police officer of thirty years, agrees. Like Brock, Ferland had not seen the footage for himself.

“You have to remember that police officers are often working in very violent environments that don’t look nice when viewed with a video camera,” Ferland told ATTN:. “To someone who hasn’t seen that type of environment, it can be quite upsetting... I do know sometimes it’s very well justified based on the totality of what is going on around them — and just because someone is in handcuffs doesn’t mean they aren’t a threat.”

Rob Berman, a forensic expert who works investigating and litigating dog bites and pet related injuries, sees a lot of problems here — and the animal is at fault.

“The K9 in this video has malfunctioned,” Berman explained to ATTN:. “Once the suspect is subdued and in handcuffs the handler is supposed to release the dog which may have happened her but to no avail. It is clear that the dog is not responding to his handler who is trying to get the dog to release.”

“Police K9s are supposed to release on command,” Berman said. “The handler looks helpless in the video like he doesn't know what to do next. This is a nightmare scenario for the victim who is doing everything right to stop the attack.”

If a police animal does act out, measures are taken — and every instance that a K9 is deployed requires investigation.

Both Brock and Ferland note that any instance that a K9 is issued is examined by multiple tiers of supervisors who unpack the situation.

“Even small and tiny departments have these mechanisms in place,” Brock said.

Brock noted should the animal have acted out of line, the animal isn’t at fault: the human can be blamed in that event. “The individual deputy is responsible for the dog,” Brock explained. “The dogs wouldn't be disciplined: the deputy would be disciplined.”

Ferland agreed, highlighting the main use of police dogs: “We use police dogs to face a threat before a human so the human doesn't get injured. The police dog is trained to meet that threat first.”

Ferland added that as far as likely discipline for the San Diego police dog incident, corrections will be made to the animal or nothing will happen, and — more severely — the dog would be retired or the team retrained. When asked if a dog would ever be put down for misbehavior, Ferland said that’s not an option.

“I’ve never heard of that,” he added.

While this situation appears to be brutal and, whether right or wrong, K9s acting out are very rare.

K9s are usually very effective and all experts agreed that situations like the one caught on tape don’t typically happen where the use of force was inappropriate.

“Police K9s are typically great dogs with very specialized training that help officers apprehend dangerous and potentially dangerous suspects with the least danger to the officers,” Berman explained.

“It’s a rare occurrence,” Brock said. The officer notes that, if anything, situations like this should open a conversation between those inside the force and those outside.

“Call and ask the questions,” he explained. “Or show up to a coffee with your sheriff or a meeting with the police chief... We like to have this dialogue and teach what this profession is about.”