A bill that would end the use of police K-9 units, also known as police units involving trained police dogs, in many criminal situations was introduced to the Assembly on Monday.
Assembly Bill 742, authored by Assemblyman Corey Jackson (D-Moreno Valley), would specifically end the use of K-9 units for arrest, apprehension, and crowd control. As the bill has yet to be fully submitted, it is unknown what, if any, exceptions there are, 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 ban K-9 units entirely, as they would still be allowed for search and rescue, explosive detection, and narcotic detection that does not include the use of biting.
Assemblyman Jackson said he authored the bill in response to the high number of injuries reported with police dogs, as well as 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,” Assemblyman Dr. Corey A. 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,” said Assemblyman Jackson on Monday in front of the Capitol Building in Sacramento. “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. 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.”
A California lawmaker is talking about a new bill that would ban the use of police K-9s for arrests https://t.co/HOrT4366eR
— kcranews (@kcranews) February 13, 2023
Carlos Marquez III of the ACLU added that “It’s time for California to take a stand and end this inhumane practice.”
Law Enforcement, Public Safety groups deride bill
However, AB 742 received a quick backlash from law enforcement officials and public safety groups, who said that police dogs were essential for many police tasks, including apprehending suspects. Many also pointed to statistics that showed that while there were some outlying cases of deaths caused by police dogs and injuries’ caused by bites, the vast majority of cases helped bring in criminals without the use of force from officers and didn’t need to escalate the situation to 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,” Chief Chris Catren, President of the California Police Chiefs Association (CPCA) responded on Monday. “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.”
Others explained that AB 742 would deprive police of a valuable unit that saves lives.
“This is another one of California’s absolutely insane bills,” said former police officer and K-9 unit member Ronald Davis to the Globe on Monday. “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. 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. 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.”
AB 742 is expected to be heard in Assembly Committees soon.
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