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Canine Question- Kuha v. Minnetonka


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  • Canine Question- Kuha v. Minnetonka

    I have a question for you Canine officers out there, but any of you should feel free to offer your opinion. In my Criminal Procedure class last Spring, we discussed the case of Kuha v. Minnetonka. I've copied the facts of the case below. I apologize for the length, but I felt it important to include all of the facts as they were summarized in the case. I'll ask my actual questions at the bottom.

    "On the evening of September 22, 1999, Kuha went to a bar with friends. He states that he had four or five beers at the bar and then drove to a friend's house. Kuha claims he left his friend's home at approximately 1:00 a.m., intending to drive home. Shortly after leaving, he drove his car into a roadside curb, damaging the car and flattening the tire. Kuha walked back to his friend's house to get help. He and his friend changed the tire and placed the damaged tire on the front seat of the car. Kuha then continued on his way home.

    At approximately 5:30 a.m., Kuha encountered Officer Roth, a Minnetonka police officer, who was driving in the opposite direction. Kuha failed to dim his lights when he approached the oncoming police car. Officer Roth made a u-turn and pulled Kuha over. Officer Roth called in the vehicle's license plate information and started to get out of the car for what appeared to be a routine traffic stop.

    At this point, Kuha opened his door, got out, looked at the officer, and ran from his car, heading for a ditch and swamp abutting the road. Officer Roth attempted to follow Kuha but Kuha disappeared into the swamp. Beyond the swamp was a hilly area with high grass and dense brush and foliage. Beyond that were apartment and office buildings. Officer Roth returned to his police car and called for back-up. While waiting for back-up, Officer Roth inspected Kuha's car, noting its damage and the flat tire on the front seat. He also found Kuha's wallet and concluded that the picture on the license matched that of the person who had fled from the scene.

    Within minutes, Officers Warosh and Anderson arrived. They were accompanied by Officer Anderson's K-9 partner, "Arco." Arco is trained under a "bite and hold" method; thus, if given a "find" command, Arco will find, bite and "hold" a suspect until commanded to release. While tracking Kuha, Officer Anderson held Arco's leash in one hand and a flashlight in the other. Officer Warosh provided cover for the K-9 team. Arco remained on his leash as they tracked plaintiff up a steep, woody hill and toward a grassy field.

    Approximately thirty minutes after the initial stop, and as the K-9 team reached the top of a hill, Arco alerted, indicating that plaintiff was relatively nearby. At this point, Arco was around ten feet out on his lead. Arco bounded into the three-foot- high grass and "seized" Kuha. Arco is trained to bite and hold the first body part that he reaches. In this instance, Arco bit Kuha's upper leg. Kuha was naked except for his boxer shorts. He claims that he took off his clothes after swimming through the swamp because they were wet and cold.

    Kuha states that he held his hands up to surrender as the officers approached and before Arco bit him, but concedes that the officers may not have seen him because of the high grass. The officers aver that they did not see the seizure but instead heard Kuha scream and arrived on the scene immediately thereafter. Prior to calling off Arco, Officers Anderson and Warosh inspected the area around and under Kuha to ensure he was unarmed. During this time, Kuha gripped Arco's head trying to free his hold. Officer Anderson repeatedly told Kuha he would not call off the dog until Kuha let go of the dog and put his hands up. Kuha eventually complied and Officer Anderson called off the dog. It is undisputed that the entire apprehension, from bite to release, took no more than ten to fifteen seconds.

    The officers then handcuffed Kuha and noticed that Kuha was bleeding from the site where Arco bit him. They applied pressure to the wound and called for an ambulance. A subsequent medical examination revealed that Arco's bite had pierced plaintiff's femoral artery, causing substantial blood loss.

    On May 25, 2000, Kuha pled guilty to the charge of disobeying a police officer. According to Kuha, he ran from Officer Roth because he feared he may have been over the legal alcohol consumption limit. Kuha claims he was afraid of being convicted for driving under the influence which would have severely hindered his prospects for a career as a commercial pilot. A sample of Kuha's blood was taken at the hospital when he was treated for the dog bite. The sample placed Kuha's blood alcohol level above the legal limit. He was not charged with driving under the influence, however, because of concerns that his blood loss may have altered the results of the test."

    My questions are as follows:

    1. Do you think that this was an appropriate use of a canine? Much of my class felt that since Kuha had committed no crime greater than fleeing, it was inappropriate to use a canine, which has the potential to cause death.

    2. Much of my class also argued that police Canines should not be trained in the bite and hold method, but rather the find and bark method. More info on this can be found here: you can also do a quick google search.

    I was in the minority which found this to be appropriate and also found the bite and hold method to be appropriate.

    I did talk to a canine officer and now Sgt. who I knew and he said that he thought the use of the dog in that case was inappropriate, but also said that the bite and hold method is the best since it gives the handler the most possible control over the animal. Your input would be much appreciated. Thanks and sorry for the length!

  • #2
    here's why I think the use of K9 was appropriate....the guy fled from the scene, you don't know if he is armed or not, has dope or not, just committed a homicide or not......i'd rather use a K9 to track the guy down.....there is a lot less likelihood of an ambush with a tracking dog then with a bunch of officers who don't know if the guy is hiding in that bush behind you or up in a tree with a gun pointed at you...

    if officers used loud verbal commands to have the suspect come out from hiding and he still refuses, as far as I'm concerned, he decided his own fate....


    • #3
      You, along with myself, would have been in the minority of the class. I remember my professor being astonished whith most of the class. The thing is that happened when we started discussing cases in which I couldn't articulate an officer safety issue. So long as I can articulate some aspect of officer-safety, my opinions will be decidedly pro-police.


      • #4
        A Police K-9 is NOT deadly force.


        • #5
          Find and bite is better than bark and hold. The use of force decision is made by the handler, not by the dog. With bark and hold, the dog has to decide if the suspect is a threat or fleeing, and has to decide to bite. With find and bite, the decision is made by a trained police officer.

          In the case in question, the force was absolutely reasonable. It's unfortunate that his femoral got nipped, but the dummy shouldn't have run.

          As K9Tom posted, use of a K-9 is not deadly force. That fact is thoroughly established in courts all across the country.
          Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. - Ronald Reagan

          I don't think It'll happen in the US because we don't trust our government. We are a country of skeptics, raised by skeptics, founded by skeptics. - Amaroq


          • #6
            I don't think your class is qualified to make a judgment call that a K9 is inappropriate.

            This isn't a baseball game and we aren't going to fight fair. If some idiot wants to run, we are going to catch them with minimal risk to the officers. The last thing I want to do is chase an offender into a swamp and high grass so he can ambush me.

            If your class had been taught and police survival you would have a different opinion on this.

            As for the K9 having the potential to cause death that's pretty outrageous and further shows that your lack of experience and basic knowledge of police K9's.


            • #7
              Originally posted by wirefire2
              .If your class had been taught and police survival you would have a different opinion on this.

              As for the K9 having the potential to cause death that's pretty outrageous and further shows that your lack of experience and basic knowledge of police K9's.
              If my original post came off as sounding like I found the actions unreasonable or in any way thought the use of a K-9 was innapropriate, I apologize. I was simply relaying what the majority of my class (NOT me) argued. I don't have a problem with any of this. I just wanted to hear the opinion of officers in relation to my viewpoint.


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