A shocking case of an Ohio police officer who released a police dog on an unarmed Black man who had his hands raised has thrown the use of canines by law enforcement back into the national spotlight in the US.
On Wednesday, the Circleville police department announced that the officer, who has been identified as Ryan Speakman, had been terminated “effective immediately”, New 5 Cleveland reported.
“Circleville police officer Ryan Speakman’s actions during the review of his canine apprehension of suspect Jadarrius Rose on July 4 show that Officer Speakman did not meet the standards and expectations we hold for our police officers,” the police department said.
Numerous reports in recent years have pointed to the ways in which police dogs have been used as weapons across the US by police and prison staff, often involving victims who were people of color.
Last year, video footage appeared to show California police officers using a police dog to severely maul an Uber driver who missed his car payments. In 2016, the family of an unarmed Black man in Mississippi who was severely attacked by a police dog and then fatally shot by a white police officer filed a wrongful death lawsuit.
A study released by the Marshall Project in 2020 found that many people attacked by police dogs did not have a weapon, were not accused of violent crimes or were not suspects at all.
A separate 2021 report by the organization found that between 2017 and 2019, Baton Rouge police dogs in Louisiana bit at least 146 people, with the majority of them being Black.
Earlier this year, a report published by the US justice department after the botched police raid that killed Breonna Taylor in Kentucky found that police dogs used by Louisville’s metro police department were found to sometimes not release a person even after being ordered by their handlers to do so.
Similarly, a recent Insider report found that from 2017 to 2022, patrol dogs used by state prisons were ordered to attack incarcerated people at least 295 times. It also reported at least 13 incidents during which the dogs went rogue and attacked correction officers or other prison staff.
But the Ohio case is seen as especially shocking, not least because the incident was caught on film and showed that other police officers ordered the canine officer not to release the dog on Rose.
The incident unfolded on 4 July, when dashcam video captured by the Ohio state highway patrol shows a trooper trying to stop a semi-truck driven by 23-year-old Jadarrius Rose for allegedly missing a mudflap.
Video footage appears to show Rose pulling over at one point before continuing to drive again. According to a recording of a call that Rose placed to 911, he told the dispatcher, “They’re trying to kill me,” News 5 Cleveland reports.
Following a chase through three counties, troopers eventually used spike strips to destroy the truck’s tires, which then forced Rose to come to a stop.
Video footage shows Rose exiting the truck as officers urge him to approach them with his hands raised or to get on the ground. Speakman can be seen holding back a police dog as a trooper repeatedly yells: “Do not release the dog with his hands up! “Do not. Do not. Do not.”
Nevertheless, Speakman appears to release the dog, which can then be seen running towards Rose before attacking him on the ground. Rose can be heard screaming in agony, at one point yelling, “Please! Please!” Meanwhile, a trooper repeatedly yells, “Get the dog off of him! Get the dog!” as multiple officers try to separate the dog from Rose.
At one point, video footage appears to show a trooper walking away from the scene in shock as they cover their face with their hands. Officers are then shown placing Rose, who is still on the ground writhing in pain, in handcuffs.
Speaking to ABC on Monday, Circleville’s mayor, Donald McIlroy, said that Speakman was put on paid administrative leave last Thursday and that the dog was put in a kennel.
Following the announcement of Speakman’s termination, the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association released a statement saying that Speakman was fired “without just cause”. It also released an official grievance form which it filed on behalf of Speakman.
Meanwhile, the national civil rights attorney Ben Crump and the attorney Kenneth Abbarno hailed the termination of Speakman, saying:
“It was the right decision to fire Ryan Speakman for releasing the police canine on Jadarrius … The excessive force Speakman used was not a baton or taser like we often see in these incidents, it was a live animal that repeatedly sunk its teeth into an already terrified Jadarrius, conjuring disturbing images from the past.”
In a joint statement last Friday, McIlroy and the police chief, G Shawn Baer, said that the incident would be evaluated by a use-of-force review board with the findings expected to be released next week, CNN reported.
According to the Circleville police department, the dog was trained by Shallow Creek Kennels, a Pennsylvania-based police dog training facility, with protocols that are standard for service dogs used by the US military, as well as various agencies including Customs and Border Protection and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Following the incident, Ohio’s governor, Mike DeWine, said: “This incident in Circleville should be a lesson, a wake-up call to everyone that police training in Ohio is not equal. It needs to be equal.”
“While we certainly respect Governor DeWine’s views and are always ready to discuss how to improve police training, Circleville’s canine teams of dogs and officers are trained and certified to meet current Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission-recognized standards,” the Circleville police department said, New 5 Cleveland reported.
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/jul/28/police-dog-attack-black-man-ohio Police dog use scrutinized after violent attack on unarmed Black man in Ohio | Ohio