“Anybody seen my leash?”
That’s what Wake County Deputy Cameron Broadwell asked other officers after he commanded his K-9 dog, Lok,i, to attack a man who was already surrounded by Raleigh police officers and state troopers and did not appear to be threatening them.
The leash wasn’t the only restraint lost in this ugly April 3 incident captured by law enforcement videos released Wednesday. Broadwell also lost sight of the procedures that are supposed to guide officers using K-9 dogs.
Screaming at a distraught and intoxicated man to “get down or get bit” doesn’t seem the best approach. And then releasing the dog and punching the man to the ground doesn’t appear in any law enforcement guide on how to handle a suspect who is not attempting to flee or fight.
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Officers encountered Kyron Dwain Hinton, 29, of Raleigh, on the evening of April 3 after 911 callers reported him standing in the middle of Raleigh Boulevard near Yonkers Road in Raleigh. The first to respond, a state trooper, approached Hinton calmly and waited for assistance. Within minutes, Hinton was surrounded by several Raleigh police officers.
Hinton admitted afterward that he was intoxicated and upset about having lost his money at a nearby sweepstakes parlor. He was gesticulating and behaving oddly, but the officers, while wary, did not draw their weapons.
Then the video shows Broadwell bursting onto the scene, releasing his dog and punching Hinton. Several officers then piled on the prone Hinton, even as the dog bit him.
A grand jury found the images so disturbing that it indicted Broadwell and two state troopers who are accused of beating Hinton. Broadwell has been charged with three felonies — assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, assault inflicting serious bodily injury and willfully failing to discharge duties.
N.C. troopers Michael G. Blake and Tabithia L. Davis have both been charged with assault inflicting bodily injury for allegedly beating Hinton with flashlights and willfully failing to discharge duties.
Charges against Hinton for disorderly conduct, resisting a public officer and assault on a law enforcement animal were dropped.
Broadwell said he thought Hinton had a gun and had been stopped after a police pursuit. Even if that were the case, his actions appear to have been excessive and dangerous to Hinton and officers. Given that Hinton, who suffered a broken nose and other injuries, may sue, Broadwell’s actions also could be costly to Wake County.
The Raleigh videos join a long list of videos – some from law enforcement cameras and some from observers – that show police encounters that spin out of control and lead to excessive use of force. It’s puzzling why these highly publicized incidents don’t prevent the same errors from being repeated. By the end of the April 3 incident, at least eight officers from three agencies had responded to a man standing in the street. There has to be a better use of law enforcement power and resources.
In North Carolina, it would help to change a state law that declares police videos are not public records. It would also help if all law enforcement agencies obtained and were required to use body cameras. If officers had more certainty that their actions are being recorded and the video would be a public record, they might be less inclined to use force in situations that could be resolved with talk and patience.
Meanwhile in Wake County, Sheriff Donnie Harrison is an expert police dog handler. From the video, it looks like he should invest more time in training the human half of his K-9 teams.