A bill to end the use of police K-9 units in many criminal policing situations, failed to pass the Assembly this week, with the bill’s author sending it directly to the inactive file as a result.
Assembly Bill 742, also known as police units involving trained police dogs, authored by Assemblyman Corey Jackson (D-Moreno Valley), would specifically have ended the use of K-9 units for arrest, apprehension, and crowd control. It was unknown what, if any, exceptions there were, such as if a K-9 unit is on an emergency call or if there are a shortage of regular units. AB 742 would not have banned K-9 units entirely, as they would still have been allowed for search and rescue, explosive detection, and narcotic detection that does not include the use of biting.
In addition, amendments made since the bill was introduced in February opened the door for many exceptions. This included changing language from, “It is the intent of the Legislature to prevent the use of police canines for the purpose of arrest, apprehension, or any form of crowd control” to, “It is the intent of the Legislature to prevent the use of police canines for any form of crowd control, or to arrest or apprehend a person except to avoid the use of deadly force or to defend against a lethal threat by the person.”
It also radically changed not using dogs to apprehend anyone under any circumstances to allowing multiple exceptions, such as tracking down those with felonies who hurt or killed others. And the bill replaced a total ban on allowing the dog to bite to granting numerous exceptions.
However, those changes ultimately failed to dissuade a growing number of lawmakers from dropping support of AB 742. For weeks, more and more lawmakers had begun to turn away from the bill due to a large outcry from law enforcement leaders and groups across the state. While Jackson said he authored AB 742 in response to the high number of injuries reported with police dogs, as well as the claimed historical use of K-9 units disproportionately against African-Americans and other people of color, police departments across the state expressed the need to have dogs as a way to apprehend suspects, to protect officers lives, and to protect others. They also warned that there would be an overall increase in crime if the bill was passed.
“We would see an increase in violent encounters between police and suspects if K-9 aren’t able to be used to deter,” explained Oceanside Police Chief Kendrick Sadler in a recent statement.
With so many law enforcement groups responding negatively to the bill, and an increase of crime and danger to public safety likely if AB 742 was passed, Assemblymembers quickly withdrew support for the bill. It went from Republican and some Democratic opposition in Mid-May to full GOP and Majority Democrat opposition in only a few weeks as a result. With the votes no longer there to pass the bill, Jackson sent the bill to the inactive file on Thursday, effectively killing AB 742.
The end of AB 742
While Assemblyman Jackson’s office said that they hoped to work with police to bring the bill back next year, law enforcement groups responded by celebrating the end of the bill, highlighting the huge amount of opposition that helped take down AB 742.
“On behalf of the California Police Chiefs Association, the police canine units and their handlers, we want to express our heartfelt gratitude for your support,” tweeted the California Police Chiefs Association. “Your appreciation for the valuable contribution these canine teams make to our communities is truly inspiring.”
On behalf of the California Police Chiefs Association, the police canine units and their handlers, we want to express our heartfelt gratitude for your support. Your appreciation for the valuable contribution these canine teams make to our communities is truly inspiring. pic.twitter.com/qEG9t8ubma
— CalChiefs (@CalChiefs) June 1, 2023
Former police officer and K-9 unit member Ronald Davis told the Globe Friday, “This is a great feeling. We all felt bewildered that someone would even entertain this notion, and look how many members of law enforcement came out against this. We all know just how important our dogs are. A lot of us even see them as fellow officers.”
“By keeping this bill down, we are helping the people of California, helping protect citizens and officers alike, and helping keep crime down. This bill wanted to pretend that this didn’t happen. Thankfully level-headiness and rational thinking prevailed.”
While Jackson has hinted that the bill will be tried again next year, it is currently unknown if that will happen, and if it does, if the bill’s language will be similar to AB 742.
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