SAN DIEGO — Should there be laws limiting the use of police dogs in California? A new bill aims to restrict law enforcement K-9s.
Assembly Bill 742 would limit the use of police dogs for arrests, apprehensions, and crowd control across California.
Supporters of the bill said officers have a long history of targeting and brutalizing people of color with police dogs. Law enforcement departments across the state have come out against the law, saying they use dogs to prevent loss of life as a de-escalation tactic.
San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit said AB 742 is counterintuitive to de-escalation because K-9s help keep people alive.
"Everything is about de-escalation, yet this bill would remove our best tool and the only tool we can send that we can recall. If, all of a sudden, somebody becomes compliant, we can call that dog back. If you take this away, then everything goes to the wind. And now you're looking at officer injuries, officer-involved shootings, and people are going to die that don't need to," Chief Nisleit said.
"There's no data to show that.” Cephus Johnson counters. “We should live on the data, rather than sadly the police explanation of why a reform bill shouldn't be utilized." Johnson, or “Uncle Bobby X,” is Oscar Grant’s uncle and a Families United for Justice activist.
Oscar Grant was killed by Oakland Police in 2009. Events leading up to Grant's death are the basis of the 2013 film Fruitvale Station. Johnson continued, "I believe they're portraying to the public that the ask is to eliminate k9s. That's not the ask. The ask is to take your use of force tool and set some guidelines for when a dog can be released to bite."
AB 742 would prohibit the use of an unleashed police canine by law enforcement to apprehend a person, person unless the person is being pursued a felony that threatened or resulted in the death of or serious bodily injury to another person.
Chief Nisleit said SDPD is already adhering to stringent protocols for how and when K-9s are used. He adds SDPD training exceeds the minimum California POST recommendations. "Before we deploy a dog, we give K-9 warnings. Cooperate, and follow what the K-9 officer is telling you. And we only use this in very serious cases. It's a reactive tool. So, somebody has to commit a violent crime or have a violent scenario before our K-9s come.”
“We have had plenty of incidents; if not for that police K-9 officer on the scene, officers would have to shoot that person," Chief Nisleit said.
Chris Tivanian is the K-9 Lieutenant for San Diego Police Department. Tivanian continued, "The overarch of San Diego PD is being a leader in law enforcement and being progressive in working with the community, and they want to see accountability; they appreciate the efforts we make to not only meet the minimums but exceed it."
Tivanian said authors of AB 742 should consider already existing POST Requirements for K-9 units but keep in mind a blanket law might not work for all law enforcement agencies. "There should be a minimum level of training like any other force option that police officers would employ. But a very small agency with one or two dogs might not be able to meet the training requirements that a large San Diego Police Department can that has 34 dogs around the clock."... (Read more)
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