Sometimes cops get the wrong suspect. Sometimes police dogs bite the wrong man.
That's why the city of Minneapolis is planning to pay $25,000 to one of its own, officer Bruce Johnson, and his attorney after one of its canine enforcers bit him on the hands and arms last Oct. 29. The attack on Johnson was one of at least two by Benny the police K-9, who has gone into retirement after costing the city $105,000 in legal settlements.
"The dog just got the wrong person," said Johnson's attorney, Robert Bennett. Bennett also represents Abel Miamen, who won an $80,000 settlement from the City Council on July 1 following an attack by Benny.
"The dog has had several incidents," Bennett said.
According to a report to the council, Johnson, a 39-year veteran of the force, was working in uniform off-duty and using a marked squad car when he heard a call involving a police pursuit on the Broadway Avenue bridge. He arrived as the fleeing vehicle stopped, and officer John Bennett was pulling the suspect out of his vehicle to the ground.
Benny ran past Bennett and the suspect and repeatedly bit Johnson. Johnson missed several weeks of work because of injuries and might need surgery, his attorney said.
Benny is a 74-pound German Shepherd dog imported from Eastern Europe. He joined the department in 2003 for both patrol and narcotics duties. Bennett started with the department in 1990, and has been with the canine unit since 2003.
The police department is reviewing the incident for potential discipline.
The $25,000 award is over and above the worker compensation costs paid by the city for lost wages and medical expenses, Bennett said. He argued to the city that the matter constituted a civil rights violation because it represented excessive force. "The dog shouldn't have been deployed the way it was deployed," he said.
A City Council committee Monday approved the settlement urged by city lawyers, setting it up for full council approval on Friday.
Steve Brandt • 612-673-4438