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CA bill would prohibit use of police K9s for arrests and crowd control

The author of the bill said the use of law enforcement K9s dates back to slave catchers

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A new effort is underway to ban police from using police dogs to arrest or apprehend suspects. If passed, it would also ban police from using them for crowd control. 

The lawmaker behind the bill, newly-elected Assemblymember Corey Jackson, said that the use of police canines, or K9s, has been the backbone of this country’s history of racial bias and violence against Black Americans. 

Jackson said police canines were first used by slave catchers and are a violent carryover from America’s dark past. 

“That is a vicious and unforgiving part of our history that has created nightmares that has institutionalized and created generational trauma in the Black community for centuries,” said Jackson. 

It’s why he wants to ban police from using them for arrest, apprehension or any form of crowd control.

“Police canines remain a gross misuse of force, victimizing Black and Brown people disproportionately,” said Jackson. 

He cited data from the California Department of Justice that shows nearly two-thirds of people injured by canines are Black or Latino. 

“Many of these bites can create lifelong injuries," said Jackson. "So let's make this clear, lifelong injuries - before you're proven guilty.”

Republican Assemblymember Tom Lackey was with the California Highway Patrol for 28 years.

“Canines have a very unique function in that they're there to provide another less lethal use of force when when you have a resistant or combative suspect, or circumstances that require a less lethal intervention,” said Lackey.

Assemblymember Jackson responded to that by saying there's safer methods than using canines. 

"The idea is this, you're almost guaranteed to hurt someone by using a canine," said Jackson.

Lackey also says the bill is confusing because it would still allow police canines to detect narcotics, but he questions what happens if that detection leads to an arrest. 

“(That's) one of the points of confusion, but there gonna be other points of confusion, because it's simply just not a good idea,” said Lackey.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which is backing the legislation, said the main function of the bill is to prohibit dogs from biting. The dog can still be used to help find a suspect, and they can bark if they find the suspect to let law enforcement know where they are. However, they can’t bite. 

“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” said Chief Chris Catren, president of California Police Chiefs Association, in a statement, “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.”


California Assembly Bill 392, AKA the ‘Use of Force’ Bill | Deep Dive

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