Utah Legislator: If You Don’t Want to Be Attacked by Police Dogs, ‘Stay Home’
After body camera footage showed that a Salt Lake City police officer had sicced a dog on a cooperative suspect, an internal audit revealed what Mayor Erin Mendenhall described as “a pattern of abuse”: In two-thirds of the 27 cases where a police dog had bitten someone since 2018, the use of force was questionable enough to consider criminal charges against the officers. The scandal prompted state legislators to propose a bill that would codify the appropriate use of police dogs. But state Sen. Don Ipson (R–St. George) has a simpler solution: If people don’t want to be attacked by police dogs, he said last week, they should “stay home.”
Ipson made it clear that he was not keen on the proposed legislation. “I don’t have a lot of sympathy,” he told fellow members of the Utah Senate’s Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee. “We don’t want to harm the public. But if they don’t want to get bit, stay home.”
There are a few problems with Ipson’s stance. First of all, Jeffery Ryans, the 36-year-old man who was bitten in the incident that prompted Salt Lake City to review the use of police dogs, was smoking a cigarette in his own backyard when he was accosted by cops on April 24. They were there because someone had called 911 after hearing Ryans arguing with his wife, who had obtained a protective order against him. According to Ryans, he had moved back in with his wife weeks earlier at her invitation. She told him she had asked that the protective order be lifted, but he did not realize it was still in force because her request was pending.
Whatever the circumstances of the encounter, body camera footage obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune clearly showed that Ryans was cooperating with police when Officer Nickolas Pearce told his dog to attack. “Get on the ground!” Pearce shouted. “Get on the ground, or you’re going to get bit!” Ryans crouched, then kneeled on the ground with hi
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