Lawmaker Wants to Ban K-9 Police Units So That Dogs Can’t Bite Suspected Criminals
For nearly 45 years, American consumers have been asked to help “Take a Bite Out of Crime” by McGruff the Crime Dog, the talking, trench coat-wearing bloodhound which, as part of a national public service campaign, has become one of the most-recognized mascots in advertising history.
Now, one woke Democrat lawmaker from — where else? — California wants to literally take the K-9 bite out of law enforcement.
State Assemblyman Corey Jackson has introduced a bill that would end the use of police units involving trained police dogs, otherwise known as K-9 units, in an array of various criminal encounters.
Specifically, Assembly Bill 742 would prohibit the deployment of K-9 units for arrests, apprehensions and crowd control situations. The proposed legislation wouldn’t ban K-9 units completely, as they would still be utilized for search and rescue and the detection of explosives and narcotics detection — settings that would preclude canine officers biting suspected criminals.
Jackson said he authored the bill to answer the high number of injuries reported caused by police dogs, as well as what he cites is the historical use of K-9 units disproportionately against African-Americans and other people of color.
“The use of police canines has inflicted brutal violence and lifelong trauma on Black Americans and communities of color,” Jackson said in a statement. “This bill marks a turning point in the fight to end this cruel and inhumane practice and build trust between the police and the communities they serve.
“Today we announce the introduction of AB 742,” Jackson continued. “This bill seeks to end a deeply racialized, traumatic, and harmful practice by prohibiting the use of police K-9s for arrest, apprehension, and crowd control. We have to understand that the use of police K-9s have been a mainstay in this country’s dehumanization and it’s cruel and violent history…It is an abuse for Black Americans and people of color and this has been done for centuries.
“Police K-9s remain a gross misuse of force and victimize black and brown people disproportionately,” he said. “The need for AB 742 is needed not only through a historic perspective but also through the clear racial disparities in the data that we see every year.”
Said Carlos Marquez III of the American Civil Liberties Union: “It’s time for California to take a stand and end this inhumane practice.”
Law enforcement officials and public safety groups counter that police dogs have ended up essential for many police tasks, particularly apprehending suspects. Opponents to the bill note statistics show that while there have been a few cases of injuries or even deaths caused by biting police dogs, a great majority of cases showed the canines helped capture criminals without the use of force by officers who didn’t need to escalate the situation into using non-lethal weapons or firearms.
“No one is arguing that irresponsible, criminal and negligent use of a canine is unacceptable, which is why we have such strict standards and laws on how and when canines can be used,” asserted Chief Chris Catren, President of the California Police Chiefs Association. “But removing a non-lethal and highly effective law enforcement ally, which is used primarily to de-escalate and diffuse volatile scenarios, gravely hinders our police officers’ safety and ability to reduce the amount of force used in those circumstances. The fact is that canines reduce more force than they ever use and banning them goes too far.”
Ronald Davis, a former police officer and K-9 unit member, told the California Globe Jackson’s new legislation “is another one of California’s absolutely insane bills…First of all, there are numerous court cases that allow these dogs to be used, especially in cases when the suspect was seen to have a gun. We have higher courts saying that police dog use of force does not violate the Fourth Amendment. So even if this passes, this is going right to court and is going to be held up from being implemented while it’s heard.
“Second of all, for every case of a dog biting someone, there are so many more where a dog took down a dangerous suspect that could have injured officers or others,” Davis said. “Any K-9 officer will tell you that the dog that we’re partnered with has saved lives. I’ve seen dogs wrestle down suspects who had been holding handguns and knives. All those instances of dogs causing a bite injury to someone? Look at how many happened because the suspect had a gun or other weapon drawn, or if lives were at risk, or if they were threatening people with violence. It’s nearly all cases.”
“The way [Jackson] is putting it is that it is like the 1960’s South out there or something with all police dogs going after people. That is so wrong,’ he said. “Using dogs for arrest and apprehension is used in dangerous situations, not willy-nilly. K-9 units are called in specifically for those types of cases, as well as for things like drugs. As for using dogs during crowd control… they’re leashed and only used as a last resort. They aren’t being sent whenever. They are there in case lives are in danger and they save lives.”
Meanwhile, Ron Cloward, a retired lieutenant with the Modesto Police Department and president of the Western States Police Canine Association, argued the k-9 unit ban “just makes no sense.” He said police dogs are an invaluable non-lethal part of agencies across the country.
Cloward owns and operates a K-9 training and consulting business. Agencies statewide put handlers and their dogs through his multi-week courses, which he said have evolved during his time in police work to focus on de-escalation tactics.
“It’s a tool and it’s something that, if we take it away you’re just eliminating one more non-lethal weapon for law enforcement,” Cloward told KCRA-TV. the NBC affiliate out of Sacramento. “The other is focusing on more controlled police dogs and being under complete control at all times by the handler,” said Cloward, who admits dog bites can be vicious and disfiguring.
“But people don’t die from dog bites,” he said.
Then again, Cloward explained K-9s are the only method of force that can be recalled after deployment.
“Once you’ve deployed pepper spray, it’s been deployed. It’s gonna land. Once you use your gun, it’s gone. Once you use a taser, it’s on its way. You’re not stopping it,” he said. “The only thing you can stop is a K-9.”
Cloward contends K-9 units are vital tools that shouldn’t be tampered with by legislation.
“I’m not gonna say that a bad bite can’t happen because they do,” he said, but, “What’s the alternative? Someone lying in a morgue with a gunshot wound?”