Minneapolis Police Canine Bites Fewest in Five Years
The Minneapolis Police Department's canines are biting fewer people, with apprehensions at the lowest level in at least five years, according to figures compiled by the department at the request of 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.
"We have decided that we have to do things a little bit differently," Capt. Sally Weddel, who overseas the Canine Unit among other teams, said in an interview Tuesday.
In 2007, according to the data, MPD canines apprehended, or bit, 51 people; last year, there were 27 apprehensions. So far this year, there have been nine. If this year's pace were to continue, the department would see about 16 canine bites in total, a nearly 70 percent drop in just five years.
The department attributes the drop to a reduction in crime, fewer canines (from 20 in 2007 to 13 now) and fewer apprehensions.
Instead of apprehensions, the department has used its Bite Review Process, in part, to shift more focus to detentions, where a canine may be used to corral a suspect, but does not bite the person, Weddel said.
"We all see it on the news - no offense - that our dogs have done this and done that, and now we're policing ourselves," Weddel explained. "We're a better unit because of it."
Sgt. Andy Stender, one of two sergeants who lead the Bite Review Process, sits down with every officer whose canine was involved in an apprehension shortly after it occurs to debrief and to give the officer a chance to explain what happened.
Stender said the less formal reviews, which do not focus on discipline, have contributed to policy changes in the unit, such as fewer incidences of canines being "off lead" or off their leash, as well as more warnings being given by officers when canines move from floor to floor in a building.
"They're probably making some wiser decisions, deployment decisions, using a little bit more restraint at times," Stender said of his canine teams, during an interview at the MPD's kennel in northeast Minneapolis.
When asked by a reporter if taxpayers and the public are better served by such an approach, Stender answered, "I think they are."