California lawmakers are debating a new bill that would restrict police dogs from being deployed in situations where they could bite someone, in an effort to halt a “deeply racialized and harmful practice,” according to Assembly members Corey Jackson and Ash Kalra.
Assembly members Corey Jackson and Ash Kalra are the ones behind the bill, They said AB 742 could help end a practice with a troubling history involving Black communities and police dogs, they said during a Monday news conference.
“The use of police canines has inflicted brutal violence and lifelong trauma on Black Americans and communities of color,” 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.”
The measure would prohibit police dogs from being used in apprehensions, arrests, or crowd management, but they may still be employed to sniff out bombs and drugs.
“We’re trying to make sure people are not harmed and seriously injured by using K9s,” Jackson said. “Many of these bites can cause lifelong injuries. So let’s make this clear lifelong injuries before you’re proven guilty.”
During the press conference to announce the bill, Kalra called the practice, “rooted in slavery,” and the measure might help put a stop to a tragic history between Black communities and police dogs.
“We can see during the time of our nation’s history, whether it’s the civil rights movement or to this day in Black and brown communities,” he said. “This is an opportunity for us to continue to bring humanity to our criminal justice system.”
Supporters of the bill cited harmful injuries inflicted on people for minor infractions. Some experts in police dog training and tactics believe the proposed legislation would have profound consequences.
“To me, it’s a knee-jerk reaction,” Bob Eden, a retired police K9 handler in Canada who trains and consults with law enforcement all over North America, told Fox San Francisco. “A lot of times we’re dealing with violent people that won’t submit otherwise or wouldn’t be captured otherwise.”
He went on to say that police dogs frequently de-escalate situations before they are deployed, and that “the number of dogs that are on the street reduce the number of assaults on officers and the number of officer involved shootings, which ultimately would also probably save the life of a number of suspects that otherwise would have been on the receiving end of gunfire.”