Atlanta, GA — A DeKalb County police officer is claiming “official immunity” after she failed to properly restrain her K-9 and it got loose, maiming an 11-year-old boy.
The Georgia Supreme Court is now determining whether or not the family of the boy can sue for damages.
According to NBC 11,
On November 6, 2011, Officer Lynn Eshleman’s K9, Andor, bit an 11-year-old neighbor playing in his neighbor’s yard.
Officer Eshleman had warned children in the neighborhood not to look over the fence because it antagonized the dog. She also warned them if he ever escaped the fence, they should just stand still. “When you run, you become prey to a dog,” she allegedly told the children.
When Andor escaped from the back of the officer’s truck one day, he ran into the yard where the boys were playing. When 11-year-old Chandler Key tried to run away, Andor latched onto his arm and dragged him to the ground.
Eshleman admitted that she had not securely closed the door of the kennel and that the canine got out of her truck, according to the lawsuit.
The boys father filed a lawsuit against Eshleman, claiming that she was liable for damages caused by her negligence. Chandler suffered “a gaping laceration and puncture wound and had to be treated at the hospital with injections and stitches,” according to his father. The 11-year-old is mentally traumatized as well.
The logic behind Eshleman’s request for official immunity, while laughable, is particularly worrisome. Eshleman claims that since she was performing her duties as a police officer, by caring for the canine, she is entitled to official immunity.
Eshleman wholeheartedly believes that she can’t and shouldn’t be held liable for her negligence which caused a young boy to physically mutilated.
Was this boy simply collateral damage in the war on drugs who has no recourse for the damage done to him?
Her attorneys argue that her duties only directed that she not be careless with the dog or allow it to run at liberty. The specifics were up to her discretion and should fall under official immunity.
Luckily, two lower courts have already denied her motion for official immunity.
“Because Andor was a police canine, specially trained to apprehend suspects, there was some evidence that ‘the animal had a propensity to do the act which caused the injury and that the defendant knew of it,'” the Court of Appeals opinion says.
The Key family’s attorneys, rightfully claim that Eshleman was negligent and broke a number of local ordinances, which require owners to keep their animals under restraint, especially those with a vicious propensity.
“There is no proverbial grey area,” the attorneys argue. “There is no wiggle room.” The statutes “create a simple, absolute, and definite duty to secure Andor which Eshleman did not fulfill.”
Police deferment of liability is one of the largest contributing factors to their unaccountable nature. The ability to cause harm and not suffer the consequences associated with that harm leads to a slew of problems such as abusive behavior and an above the law attitude.
The question here is not whether Eshleman should receive official immunity, but rather, why official immunity exists in the first place.