St. Paul orders outside probe after police K-9 bites bystander

Updated: 5:17 p.m. | Posted: 3:43 p.m.

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and police chief Todd Axtell vowed to make "significant changes" to the police department's K-9 unit following an incident Friday where a citizen was bitten by a police dog as officers responded to a weapons call.

The unit will also undergo an external audit examining its policy, practices and training, the two city leaders said in a statement Monday.

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Police say a dog slipped out of its collar and bit a bystander officers encountered while responding to a gun call early Friday morning.

On Monday evening, the department released body camera footage of the incident.

"The man was not involved in the incident but had been directed by officers to lie on the ground as they searched for the suspect, who had fled," according to the mayor's office. "As the canine officer approached the scene to search for the suspect, his dog's collar broke and the dog ran to and bit the man on his forearm."

Carter in a statement called it "very disturbing, especially viewed in the context of other events that have occurred over the past two years."

In 2016, Frank Baker, a St. Paul man, spent two weeks in the hospital after suffering severe wounds to his legs and feet from the severe biting by a police K-9. Police had been responding to a call about a fight. Officers didn't find a fight but found Baker, in a nearby SUV. The officer said Baker did not comply quickly with his commands so he let loose his police dog who brought Baker down.

The incident prompted Axtell to apologize personally to Baker for what happened. The city later approved a $2 million payment to Baker, the largest settlement in the city's history.

In September, a St. Paul K-9 bit a woman who was taking out her trash while an officer searched for two burglary suspects. Her lawsuit seeks financial damages and changes to the department's K-9 policy.

In the Friday incident, the department said the officer in charge of the dog, officer Mark Ross, removed it after the man was bitten but it took about 20 seconds to do so. "Once the man was free from the dog, the officer took him to a safe area, apologized" and called St. Paul fire medics who determined the person did not need to be transported to the hospital.

The department said it was ordering procedural changes to the use of dogs, daily equipment inspections, and more restrictions on when the dogs can be released. There will also be closer supervision, said department spokesperson Steve Linders.

Linders also said the dog, named Suttree, has been retired from police use, that Ross is being reassigned and that there is an active internal affairs investigation into the incident.

The officers at the scene did have body cameras on and they were activated when the dog bit the man, 33-year-old Glenn Slaughter.

Axtell said nothing will be off limits in the outside audit, which he hopes will begin within the month.