State Lawmakers Introduce Bill To Ban Use of Police Dogs

Kamari Esquerra

Lawmakers in California are proposing a bill that would ban the use of police canines for arrests, apprehensions, and crowd control. 

“This bill seeks to end a deeply racialized traumatic and harmful practice by prohibiting the use of police canines,” said Assemblymember Corey Jackson (D-Perris).

Assemblymembers Corey Jackson and Ash Kalra introduced Assembly Bill 742 last Monday to end what they call “a deeply racialized and harmful practice”.  

“Police canines remain a gross misuse of force, victimizing black and brown people. Disproportionately,” said Jackson. “The use of police canines has been a mainstay in the country’s dehumanization, and it’s a cruel and violent history.”

According to the Department of Justice, use of force data from 2016 to 2019 shows that black people are 3.5 times more likely than any other group to be subjected to use of force due to police canine use, with Hispanic people being the second most likely compared to cases involving white people at six per one million people.

Just over a year ago, the Palm Springs Police Department ended its use of canines for crowd control. But local law enforcement still oppose parts of the bill that would prohibit using canines for detaining and locating suspects.  

“It makes it harder for us to do our job because we’re losing a less lethal option and essentially a tool that can be used to de-escalate potentially violent scenarios,” said Lt. Gustavo Araiza, Palm Springs Police Dept. “In some cases, you increase the odds of having a violent or deadly encounter when it could have been de-escalated with a tool like this.”

Officials say use of K9s already has to meet certain guidelines and protocols.  

“We have to have probable cause that the suspect committed a violent act and is actively fleeing or hiding from law enforcement in order to use that canine,” said Lt. Araiza. “In the same respect, we provide a warning… And that’s where that de-escalation part comes in because a lot of times when we do that warning we have suspects surrender because the warning is surrender yourself now or you may get bit by the dog.”

In a statement Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco said “K9’s have proven to be a vital part of law enforcement for decades.  As a non-lethal use of force, K9’s not only protect deputies from injury at the hands of violent criminals, they actually protect the violent offender from escalating a situation to the point where deadly force would be required.  K9’s have proven themselves over and over again as a deterrent to criminal activity during protests, civil unrest, riots, and other situations where they have been deployed.”

A-B 742 also cites that canine bites resulted in hospital visits 67.5 percent of the time while other uses of force including batons and tasers resulted in hospital visits 22 percent of the time or less.

If passed, California would be the first state to adopt this type of legislation.

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