A Maine pediatrician involved in a traffic stop during which he was bitten by a police dog while being taken into custody has settled with the Town of York for $325,000.
This week, York Police released a dashboard camera video of the traffic stop along with statements about the settlement.
The video, captured on September 20, 2019, shows Dr. Stephen Brennan’s car going by the police cruiser of York Police Officer, Jonathan Rogers, flashing its high beams.
Officer Rogers instructs Brennan with commands like "put your hands up," "stop moving" "turn around" after Brennan had gotten out of his vehicle and approached the cruiser.
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Brennan does put his hands in the air but then puts them down, disregarding at least some of Rogers’ instructions as Rodgers tells Brennan to "get on the ground."
Moments later, as Brennan tries to get Rogers onto the ground and into custody, a K-9 is released and bites Brennan’s leg, as Rodgers tells Brennan to "stop resisting."
"As a result, Dr. Brennan suffered multiple puncture wounds to both legs and his left arm from the dog bites. He also experienced a chest wall injury and trauma to his left eye," said Alexander Spadinger, an attorney for Brennan, who sued the Town of York in an excessive force claim.
"The night of the incident he was treated at York Hospital. His injuries required months of follow-up and wound care treatment. As a result of this case, Dr. Brennan is hopeful that the York Police Department will take steps to ensure that next time one of its officers is faced with a situation like this, they turn first to their de-escalation training before resorting to physical force," added Spadinger.
Accompanying its release of the dashcam video, Acting York Police Chief Owen Davis said:
"Following the incident, the York Police Department conducted a thorough investigation without ever having received an outside complaint. It was determined that our Police Officer followed all Department operating procedures and used the appropriate amount of force necessary to gain control of the situation while ensuring the safety of both parties. The Officer attempted to deescalate the situation by using numerous verbal commands, but as the video shows, the person refused to comply. The officer employed non-lethal force to take the person into custody. During the investigation, three citizens who witnessed the event came forward and provided statements in support of the Officer’s actions, but by State law these may not be released by the Department. The Police Officer did not create this situation, and simply did his job to keep York a safe place."
Asked about the video, law enforcement analyst and former Massachusetts state trooper, Todd McGhee, said the entire incident was "unfortunate."
In the narrow context of K-9 use, regardless of the circumstances leading up to the traffic stop, McGhee said "all these things: nighttime, operator of a vehicle not following the commands, (a driver) making a direction back toward the vehicle, unknown to the police officer what could be harmful inside the vehicle," could contribute to a "textbook" engagement of a police dog as a non-lethal option to take someone into custody, when few options were available.
"Fortunately it was all the K-9, it didn’t escalate to anything above," he said.