Utah senator: Public can stay home to avoid police dog bites

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah senator made clear he has little patience for complaints about police dogs during a meeting of the state Legislature's law enforcement and criminal justice committee.

The committee voted Tuesday to explore a bill to codify best practices for police dog teams, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

“I don’t have a lot of sympathy,” Republican Sen. Don Ipson said. “We don’t want to harm the public. But if they don’t want to get bit, stay home.”

Officials should ensure police dogs do not bite people prematurely, but they should not impose rules inhibiting officers, Ipson said.

Ipson later apologized for “misspeaking.” But he said he stood behind the underlying premise of his comment.

An audit uncovered a pattern of abuse in the way Salt Lake City's law enforcement agency has used canines to catch suspects.

A Salt Lake City police officer commanded his police dog to bite a Black man who was kneeling with his hands raised. The officer was charged with a felony.

Republican state Rep. Val Potter agreed with Ipson and encouraged the committee to partner with law enforcement leaders so agencies do not feel the Legislature is “driving something down their throat.”

Democratic state Rep. Sandra Hollins, the only Black member of the Utah Legislature, said the proposed legislation should delve into the proper use of police canines.

It is inappropriate for “someone to be laying on the ground and complying and have a dog go after them," Hollins said.

Republican state Sen. Daniel Thatcher said lawmakers only need to codify best practices already in place, noting that canine handlers are often the ones at fault in excessive force cases.

“The handler is the person that needs the additional training,” Thatcher said. “Not the canine.”