Cold Lake’s level of force with Police Dog Harp was investigated over the past 14 months by ASIRT.
After completing a comprehensive and thorough investigation, ASIRT says the use of Cold Lake RCMP Police Dog Services was justified in an incident on Oct.1, 2018 that led to serious injuries.
Twenty-three-year-old Andy Lacombe was apprehended by police sustaining a broken jaw and requiring stomach surgery, the Cold Lake Sun reported on Nov. 8, 2018.
The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team determined that due to Lacombe’s prior history with guns and the information police had at the time of the arrest, that the use of Police Dog Services was justified to apprehend Lacombe.
At the time of the arrest, police said Lacombe suffered “minor injuries.”
He was seized after RCMP received information that Lacombe and an accomplice had taken a black Chevrolet Cruze believed to be stolen and was travelling on Highway 55 east towards Pierceland in possession of a loaded handgun and a rifle.
ASIRT said in their investigation that both Lacombe and the accomplice were known to police and known to carry firearms and had fired at RCMP.
After a struggle, which involved the Police Dog biting Lacombe as he tried to fight it off, the dog remained attached to Lacombe as he was handcuffed for 50 seconds.
He was searched and found to have no firearms on him, but RCMP found a loaded Tokarev TT Pistol in a field near the abandoned vehicle containing three rounds of ammunition on Oct. 28.
ASIRT said that police had “ample information” to suspect Lacombe had a weapon on him at the time.
“The man had sustained serious dog bites, including wounds to his abdominal area deep enough to expose tissue. The officers called for an ambulance and attempted to make the affected person as comfortable as possible, providing him with a blanket and encouraging him to remain as still as possible to prevent worsening the abdominal wounds,” ASIRT said in a press release.
“After the man arrived at the hospital, doctors noted very serious dog bite injuries to his right abdominal wall and lumbar region, in addition to his right gluteal region. The man had also sustained a fracture of the right mandible. The injuries were serious enough to require multiple surgeries.”
The time that the Police Dog remained attached to Lacombe was a concern during ASIRT’s investigation.
They said that a dog is a sentient being with its own instincts and not an inanimate object.
“One can reasonably expect that the police dog’s response would be slightly different when, as in this case, the man actively fought the dog, as opposed to circumstances where a person surrenders following contact with the dog. It is for this reason that intensive training is undertaken to attempt to ensure that, even in the most heightened situation, the police service dog remains capable of being controlled by its handler.”
It states further that there is no evidence to suggest the officer was acting in bad faith in his attempts to get the dog to disengage or that he was motivated by malicious intent.
“It is truly unfortunate that the man, as a result of his contact with the two officers and the police service dog, sustained very serious injuries. While the consequences were terrible, that does not change the lawfulness of the officers’ actions. Upon review of the completed investigation, it is executive director Susan Hughson’s opinion that there are no reasonable grounds to believe that the officers committed a Criminal Code offence.”