A California sheriff criticized lawmakers who want to keep police dogs from biting suspected criminals or being used during protests, calling K-9s an important “less-lethal” option for law enforcement.
“One of our one of our biggest successes and biggest tools to deescalate situations is the deployment of canines,” Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco told Fox News.
Brea K-9 officer Matt Wendling prepares to give his Belgian Malinois named Kylo a command during a K-9 demonstration at the National Night Out in Brea Downtown in Brea on Tuesday, August 2, 2022. (Leonard Ortiz/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
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AB 742 would prohibit police from using dogs to apprehend a suspect or for crowd control. Police dogs would not be allowed to bite people under any circumstances, according to the bill text. The bill does not prevent the use of search and rescue dogs or police K-9s that sniff out bombs or drugs.
“The use of police canines has been a mainstay in this country’s dehumanizing, cruel, and violent abuse of Black Americans and people of color for centuries,” the bill reads, adding that police dogs were used by slave catchers and, more recently, to quell civil unrest like the Los Angeles race riots and Black Lives Matter protests.
Statistics from the California Department of Justice show no use-of-force injuries involving police dogs during civil disorder or assemblies in 2020 or 2021.
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“Every agency should have canines,” Bianco said, adding that very few deployments of canines result in bites and “those deployments are all toward violent people.”
There are few national statistics on K-9 use or injuries associated with police dogs, but one study showed police dog bites sent nearly 33,000 people to U.S. hospitals between 2005 and 2013.
In California, police dogs accounted for nearly 14% of the use-of-force incidents that resulted in injury in 2021, according to the state’s DOJ. K-9 use is also largely unregulated in California — individual police departments can set their own policies, and training guidelines published almost a decade ago are optional.
California AB 742 would prohibit police from letting dogs bite suspects, or using them for arrests or crowd control. (iStock)
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But Bianco characterized lawmakers as “trying to take away a tool that is a non-physical use-of-force” for police with the “horrible bill.”
It’s “just going to make criminals more emboldened and more likely to fight with us,” he said.
To hear more from Bianco, click here.
Ramiro Vargas contributed to the accompanying video.