Western Australia is “better than” the current WA Police practice of allowing police dogs to chase down children, and the policy which allows it is racist, the Corruption and Crime Commissioner has told a committee hearing.
Concerns around WA Police releasing canines to chase down juvenile offenders garnered media attention in November when a 13-year-old boy was hospitalised with serious injuries after being attacked by a police dog.
The CCC WA boss claims police dogs should not be released to chase children. Credit:Eddie Jim
At the time officers were responding to a spate of calls about break-ins and people being threatened on Holder Street in St James.
The teen had chunks of skin ripped from his arms and a broken nose and required surgery to treat his injuries.
McKechnie, during his opening address to a Joint Standing Committee hearing on the CCC on Wednesday, said he was gravely concerned about police using dogs on youths.
“The dogs are trained to attack and bite,” he said.
“The present policies are not racist in intent, but are racist in effect. Many dogs deployed are against young and/or Indigenous persons.”
Jayden, 13, was mauled by a WA Police dog as officers responded to reports of incidents in St James.Credit:Nine News Perth
McKechnie said the CCC received referrals, usually from WA Police or the Aboriginal Legal Service, when police dogs were used against children, but in most cases, no misconduct was found as officers usually followed policy, which allowed them to treat a dog as a use of force in between a Taser and gun.
“The word complex does not begin to describe the issue of juvenile offending … but at the end of the day, we have people who are content to unleash dogs on children, I think we’re better than that,” he said.
“We look forward to working with the Commissioner of Police to find a way of limiting the use of dogs while maintaining of course the protection of the community.”
At the time Jayden was attacked, Indigenous leader Mervyn Eades said for many Aboriginal children, “the automatic reaction is to run” when they saw police.
“That’s just the way it is, so they ran and Jayden actually stopped, he didn’t want to run no more, and then he stopped, police apprehended him,” he said.
“No charges have been laid against this child, he was not in the act of committing any crime or anything like that, so why did they do it? The big question is why.
“There is no logical reasoning to set a dog upon a 13-year-old child.”
WA Police Deputy Commissioner Kylie Whiteley said at the time the force would review the incident, but defended the police dog’s deployment to the scene.
“In the middle of the night, in the dark, it’s unknown who you are chasing, so in those circumstances a police dog may be deployed, and in this instance it was a 13-year-old and others,” she said.
“It was appropriate the dog was deployed to the incident, they’re the sorts of incidents we would expect a canine unit to attend to.”
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