A POLICE force shared a photograph of a snarling police dog which it said was used to deal with someone, with a knife, who was self-harming. 

In a since deleted tweet, from an official Gwent Police account, the force also said officers had used an irritant - or pepper – spray on the person during the incident on Friday morning. 

Gwent Police has said they were called by a man who threatened to harm himself, and others, and PAVA pepper spray was used to disarm him due to the "immediate safety risk" posed to himself and others.

The tweet attracted critical comments online and was described as in “incredibly poor taste” by a local politician. 

Police also said a members of the public at the scene, on Shaftesbury Walk in Newport, reported threats had been made to harm members of the public.

A 29-year-old man from Newport has been charged with possessing an offensive weapon in a public place and referred to the health authorities.

The tweet, from the Gwent Police Dog Section account, stated: “First call of the day to a person armed with a knife in public and on arrival of Gp Chucky with response officers the person was causing significant harm to themselves. Person sprayed and along with assistance from Chucky the situation resolved.” 

The hashtag teamwork was also added to the tweet which was illustrated with a photograph of a German Shepherd or Alsatian type police dog, named Chucky, with its jaws wide open and brandishing its teeth. 

The National Wales: The deleted tweetThe deleted tweet

The tweet was first posted just before 8am on Friday, September 17 and deleted at 1.38pm on Saturday, which was nearly two hours after The National had contacted Gwent Police’s press office about the tweet and for further details of the incident. 

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The tweet drew criticism on social media with people complaining at what they considered an inappropriate response to someone self-harming and also at how police had shared the information. 

Member of the Senedd for South Wales East Peredur Owen described the tweet as in “incredibly poor taste” and said he was alarmed at how police had responded. 

The Plaid Cymru member, who represents the Gwent force area, said: “The social media post by Gwent Police Dog Section was in incredibly poor taste.  

“While the details of the incidents are unclear, it is alarming that any response to a self-harming incident would involve pepper spray and an aggressive dog. I hope that Gwent Police learn from this incident and communicate more sensitively around mental health and self-harming in future.” 

The force is currently subject to an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) following the death, in Newport, of 29-year-old Moyied Bashir after police attended at his home in February this year. 

The IOPC has said Mr Bashir has been restrained after police were called to his family home “following a report of a concern for Mr Bashir’s welfare”. He died at hospital. 

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Among those to criticise the force on Twitter over the use of the dog were political campaigner Morgan Paulette. He said the response lacked empathy with someone in mental distress – and noted officers are often the first on the scene to such incidents.  

He tweeted: “I've seen first hand the British Transport Police approach people having a crisis with empathy, kindness and gentleness. Police shouldn't be first responders to a MH crisis, but it's fully possible for it to be handled well. Gwent Police should be ashamed of themselves”. 

Mental health campaigner Meg Thomas tweeted: “This is why police shouldn't be first responders to a mental health crisis”. 

Others also criticised the response and how police appeared to be boasting on social media. 

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One Twitter user wrote: “This really isn't something to be proud of. The last thing someone who is self-harming and in emotional distress needs is this. Vile. ”. Another said: “Nothing like a bit of compassion shown to a person in a mental health crisis. Pepper spray and a snarling dog. That'll get them to trust the cops in future.” 

The wording and choice of picture was also crticised with one user writing: “This is not reformable. Their whole timeline is them crowing about how frightened people are of their dogs” 

Another said the tweet also presented a poor image of police dogs and how they are used: “Who is managing your social media? This image seriously scares me. Surely you should not be presenting well trained and invested in animals in this way? This image is disturbing.” 

Gwen Police said in a statement: "At approximately 6.15am on Friday, September 17 we received a call from a man on Shaftesbury Walk, Newport.  He stated that he was in possession of a knife, made threats to harm others and requested that officers attend the location. 

"Officers attended and received further reports from local residents relating to a man walking up and down the road making threats to harm members of the public. 
"Due to the immediate safety risk he was presenting to members of the public and himself, officers used PAVA spray to enable them to disarm the man."

The incident was resolved around 15 minutes after police arrived.

It added a man has been charged and a referral made to the health authorities.

A police spokeswoman said: "The tweet did not provide a full representation of the incident so it has now been removed."

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