Two police officers who were concerned by a dog handler's excessive use of force prompted an investigation by the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA), police say.
An officer and his dog were tracking three men who had fled from a stolen car after being involved in a police chase in west Auckland in August last year.
The IPCA said in a report released today the use of the police dog in two arrests during the incident was unlawful.
In the first incident, the dog was commanded to move towards two of the men after they ignored warnings from the officer. The dog knocked one man to the ground and continued to bite him for at least 45 seconds.
Shortly after, the dog was told to bite and hold the third offender found behind a shed.
When another officer tried to arrest the suspect, the handler told him to back off or he, too, would be bitten.
The IPCA said in the first incident, the dog should have been called off sooner, and in the second, the offender was standing with his hands in the air and making no attempt to resist arrest.
Assistant Police Commissioner Allan Boreham told Checkpoint the dog handler was reported to the IPCA by other police officers.
"So we started an investigation based off what the officers told us. The men involved who had been in the stolen car wouldn't engage with us so we did an investigation based off the information that we could and, at the same time, we reported it to the IPCA."
The police accepted the report and had offered their apologies to the two men, Mr Boreham said.
However, the bitten man had refused to talk to the police so they were apologising in public, he said.
"All we can do is make that apology over the air, publicly, because these people won't engage with us. That's their right.
"We accept the report's findings, and it highlights for us the need to get our judgement right every time when we're using force, not withstanding the hundreds of times our staff are having to respond to difficult situations every day."