Questions remain over Perth police dog shooting

Biggie was shot and killed by police last month.
Biggie was shot and killed by police last month.

LESS than a day after a police internal review cleared an officer of wrongdoing over the shooting of a dog in Kinross last month, it was last week revealed that in a separate matter the officer had been suspended for drug use.

While police were quick to emphasise his positive drug result was in no way related to the fatal shooting of staffordshire bull terrier Biggie on November 2, the revelation inevitably heightened questions around the incident. Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan has labelled the two matters an “extraordinary coincidence”.

The Times has compiled some questions and answers to look at the developments in the case.

What was the result of the internal review into the shooting?

A police statement said the review deemed the Blair Grove killing justified. It said the officer discharged the weapon based on reports the dog had acted aggressively for about two hours before the shooting. It claimed the dog had attacked another dog and displayed menacing behaviours. The statement argued the dog was standing when it was shot. This is in contrast to the opinion of many protestors who, after viewing footage of the incident on the Live Leak website, claim the animal was sitting. The statement referred to the WA Dog Act, which includes a provision for officers to destroy threatening dogs.

Was the officer drug tested after the shooting?

Mr O’Callaghan said the officer was randomly tested the day after the incident and returned a negative result. But the drug test was news to Nicole Young, the lawyer representing Biggie’s owner Pat Wharram. She said police initially explained the officer was not drug-tested after the shooting. She said police told her officers were tested only after critical incidents and the shooting was not considered critical.

Was Biggie secured properly when he escaped?

Mr Wharram was fined $600 by the City of Joondalup over the escape of Biggie and another dog, Holly. Joondalup chief executive Garry Hunt said the City received a complaint on November 7 from a dog owner whose pet had been attacked. Mr Wharram was fined $400 over the attack and $200 for Holly’s escape because she was impounded by a ranger. Ms Young believed the dogs’ getaway was not Mr Wharram’s fault. She said nearby residents claimed there had been attempted burglaries that day. Mr Wharram found his garage door open when he arrived home.

What now?

As far as the police are concerned, the dog shooting matter is closed. The officer and two other officers now await their fate over their positive test for drug use. But the case is far from over for Ms Young and Mr Wharram. Ms Young said they were unsatisfied with the police handling of the case and would push for a Corruption and Crime Commission inquiry. “We’re going to get the CCC to look into whether the police officer lied at the time (that the dog had bitten him) and other police officers helped him fix up that lie when the footage came out,” she said. She said they had not ruled out a civil case, but hoped it would not go that far.