Temporary restrictions for St. Paul Police K-9 Unit after accidental bite

Temporary restrictions are going into place for the St. Paul Police Department K-9 Unit after a dog accidentally bit a bystander while responding to a call last week.

“I have one on the bottom right here - two on the side here and one back here,” said Glenn Slaughter, while pointing out his injuries from the K-9 encounter.

As Glenn Slaughter describes the bite marks in his arm and abdomen from his encounter with a police dog late last week, he says he's still in shock and pain.

“Most of the weekend it was hard to sleep or grab stuff, the swelling was real bad,” said Slaughter.

Around 2 a.m. Friday morning, police responded to a report of a man carrying a gun in the 900 block of Fourth Street East and were searching the area for a suspect, according to St. Paul police.

Slaughter, who was not involved in the incident, walked out of his house to go to work at IKEA and police immediately told him to put his hands up and get on the ground.

Minutes later, K-9 Officer Mark Ross got the scene to help search for the suspect. Officer Ross took his partner K-9 Suttree out of the car and the dog's collar broke. K-9 Suttree ran to Slaughter on the ground and bit him on the forearm.

It took about 20 seconds for Officer Ross to get the dog off Slaughter. Once free, the officer apologized and called for medics, who treated Slaughter and determined he didn't need hospital treatment. The case is still under investigation.

“I was more in shock than anything,” said Slaughter. “How did this happen? Why is this happening?”

In response, the K-9 Unit will undergo an external audit and face temporary restrictions, which will bar deployment of police dogs unless there is a clear and immediate threat to the police or public.

“Last week’s incident involving a Saint Paul police canine is very disturbing, especially viewed in the context of other events that have occurred over the past two years,” said Mayor Melvin Carter in a press release. “I am working with Chief Axtell to implement a set of temporary restrictions on deployment of police dogs, effective immediately, until a full audit can be completed.”

“Our Canine Unit has served us well since it was established in 1958, but the mayor and I agree that we need to be sure we’re doing everything possible to deploy police dogs in the safest manner possible,” said Chief Todd Axtell in a press release. “Our goal is to determine what is working, what we can improve and how we minimize risk to the people we serve as well as officers.”

K-9 teams will be immediately assessed on their control, recall and release abilities. Those assessments will continue twice a month. Teams that fail will be removed from patrol. 

Other changes include: a full-time commander assigned to the unit, K-9 officers will be required to inspect their equipment on camera before beginning their shift and the dogs will be required to have shorter leads.

Chief Axtell says he hopes the external audit of the K-9 Unit's policy, practices and training will begin within the month. The audit will be paid by the City of St. Paul.

This is the third high profile police dog bite incident in St. Paul in the past two years. Last summer, a police dog looking for a burglary suspect clamped down on Desiree Collins’ arm as she threw out her garbage. The year before, Frank Baker suffered serious bite wounds and other injuries after he was mistaken for an armed suspect involved in a fight in a nearby apartment building.

Slaughter says he is grateful St. Paul police are taking steps to make sure the same thing doesn't happen to anyone else.

"It’s an issue now and it needs to be handled," said Slaughter.

K-9 Suttree has since been retired from the unit. Officer Ross is being re-assigned.