Police Qualified Immunity Rejected in Florida K9 Dog Bite Case

I wrote an article for BlueSheepdog.com based on a K9 bite case from U. S. Court of Appeals 11th Circuit ruling in Edwards vs. Shanley and Lovette (11-11512) from the Orlando Police Department.

The full article is linked above and gives the details of the call, but the gist of the ruling was that in the facts and circumstances specific to the Orlando incident in 2008, the judgment of the Appeals Court was to reject the qualified immunity defense of the two defendant police officers in this civil lawsuit.

At consideration in the case was the plaintiff’s allegations that the K9 dog bit him for five to seven minutes, which would be an excessive use of force.  The Court of Appeals left that allegation by the suspect to be heard by the U. S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida in future proceedings.

Because of the Appeals Court ruling in Edwards, my department changed its K9 use of force policy to include a documented estimation by the handler of the duration of a K9 dog bite.  This was not done because of any case law decided here.  It was done to preempt any legal action based upon the Appeals Court brief.

Though the Edwards case is being remanded, the U. S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida had summarily dismissed Edwards’ lawsuit based on the qualified immunity of the police officers.  I think when this case is heard again, and the officers have an opportunity to fully articulate what had actually happened, this lawsuit will find no traction.

As a former Police K9 handler and current K9 Unit sergeant, I find it extremely difficult to believe the suspect’s allegation of a five to seven minute attack.  That said, this case highlights the need for us to accurately and thoroughly document all use of force incidents to prevent lawsuits such as this from choking our legal system.


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