There is currently a bill being put forward in the state legislature that was written by Assemblyman Corey Jackson(D) firstname.lastname@example.org and Assemblyman Ash Kalra(D) email@example.com to ban the use of police patrol dogs for criminal apprehension. It is now in the hands of the House Appropriation Committee.
The body of the bill can be read here https://legiscan.com/CA/text/AB742/2023.
The bill is based on accusations that police use the dogs to target the black community and communities of color more than any other demographic, and specifically, race based accusations that state, "Per the California Department of Justice Use of Force data from 2021, injuries caused by police canines accounted for nearly 12 percent of cases that resulted in severe injury or death. Of these cases, Black people are more than two times more likely than any other group to be subjected to this use of force."
There is nothing to indicate in the DOJ report that Jackson and Kalra use to back up their claim that the black community is more than two times likely than any other group to be subjected to this use of force. In fact, the report shows clearly that K9 contacts per capita for the Black and Hispanic communities are less than that of the White community, and it is known that there were no deaths from K9 deployments. They have used wording from a report that combines all use of force reports including firearms reports, which appear to be the sole source of use of force deaths in the report.
First and foremost, in the entire history of the use of police dogs in North America, there are only 4 suspect related deaths which have occurred due to the deployment of police dogs. Compare that to the number of deaths related to use of force tools such as electrical conductive devices and the rate is infinitesimal by comparison. Four out of hundreds of thousands of deployments over many decades of police dog applications, none of which have ever occurred in the state of California. The use of force by police dogs is one of the best tools an officer has to take violent and potentially dangerous suspects into custody with the least potential to result in suspect death. The comment in AB742 stating that police dogs were responsible for 12 percent of cases that resulted in severe injury or death is deceptive. There were no deaths of any suspect related to police dog bites. This statement in AB742 is deceiving and inflammatory.
What is an unknown, and never spoken about in media is how many thousands of police dog deployments have ultimately saved the life of suspects who would otherwise very likely have been killed during encounters with police. It is common knowledge in law enforcement circles that suspects will frequently be willing to take their chances and fire on officers, however, when faced with a police dog, even before the dog is released, will often surrender out of fear of being bitten by the dog. Every one of these occurrences potentially saves the life of an officer and a suspect. The value of properly trained apprehension police dogs in deescalation cannot be understated. Simply put, they save lives, often by their presence alone. This aspect is never considered by those who wish to dispose of the use of police dogs for criminal apprehension purposes.
The DOJ report Jackson and Kalra refer to, as a whole, is about serious injuries and deaths that are from all law enforcement related uses of force including firearms. Specific injuries are not specified, and this generalized statement includes all uses of force together without separating use of force types to related deaths. The writers of AB742 have used this general statement, and written it in a way to infer that deaths by K9 occurred during this reporting period. This is a serious misdirection and patently false. There were no deaths in California as the result of K9 deployments at the time of this report.
In some agencies any dog bite that scrapes skin and may not even puncture the skin, but where the suspect, from an abundance of caution, is taken to the hospital to be checked could and likely are also grouped into this type of a report. The reporting standard would be managed by individual department policy. Some agencies out of a desire to be transparent report all K9 contacts, even if only clothing was grabbed by the dog and no injury occurred. Without knowing individual agency policy and knowing the details of each K9 contact, it is difficult to know fully accurate numbers.
It is important to note that the DOJ Use of Force data from 2021 is prefixed with a specific caveat that reads:
"In accordance with the statute’s narrow definition of use of force, the data contained in this report only represent incidents where use of force by an officer or a civilian resulted in either serious bodily injury or death of an officer or a civilian, or the discharge of a firearm by either an officer or a civilian. Therefore, this report does not contain the full spectrum of California’s use of force incidents and readers must exercise caution when making comparisons or generalizations with this data set."
Looking at the data the writers of AB724 claim they use to backup their accusations of racism, there is nothing in the report that does so. The California Department of Justice 2021 Report on Use of Force Data they refer to can be found here. Table 12 (above), taken directly from the report that Jackson and Kalra claim says the black community are bitten twice as much as other community clearly shows that claim is false.
When carefully scrutinized, there is nothing in the report that shows that the black community is twice as likely to be subjected to K9 use of force as any other demographic. In fact, on page 35 of the report the table (above) when the numbers are calculated, show that K9 Contacts for the Hispanic demographic at 10.8%, the Black demographic at 11% and the White demographic at 16%. By the DOJ stats, K9 contact on the black community is very close to equal of that of the Hispanic and below the White demographic, contrary to the quote in AB742 that claims to obtain its information from this report that the black community is subjected to the use of force at twice the rate of other groups. This information is a false statement by the writers of the bill. On page 2 of their stated source of information in paragraph 3 in the left hand column the DOJ report states very clearly, "Of the 660 civilians, 50.6 percent (334) were Hispanic, 25.5 percent (168) were white, and 16.7 percent (110) were black." These figures are also found on Table 7 in the report.
When researching sources for the claim that Assemblyman Jackson and Assemblyman Kalra put into the bill about the egregious numbers of K9 uses of force on the black community, I did manage to locate a quote from Racecounts.org, a site for racial equity that claims that California public institutions and policies remain stuck in the past.
Their statement claims that, "California law enforcement uses force on Black civilians at more than 2x the rates of all other races." This mirrors what the authors of the bill wrote in AB742 and appears to be where they obtained their information from. Interestingly, one of the sources the race counts organization claims to have obtained their statistics from is the same DOJ Source that the authors used for this bill, and the numbers do not reflect what they are saying. They also include multiple sources and combine them to obtain the results they reflect on the website. One of the sources includes estimates that fit the narrative the organization puts on its website.
The K9 Activity Tracking System (KATS Platinum) is a dynamic record keeping program designed specifically for police K9 operations, training and deployments. It services law enforcement canine units throughout the United States and has the ability to provide real-time data on police dog deployments on suspects by demographic. In other words, it can produce numbers and percentages of arrests and bites by race.
Statistics for agencies from California that use the K9 Activity Tracking System to monitor their training and deployment data show the Hispanic demographic at 12.4%, the Black demographic at 9.3% and the White demographic at 11.6%.
It should be noted that statistical differences between the California Department of Justice that the writers of AB742 used, and the K9 Activity Tracking System will be due to those who are reporting to these systems. Not all agencies in California use the KATS K9 RMS. Also, while it appears that the information from the California DOJ is credible, it should be noted that pages 63 to 67 inclusive on the Department of Justice 2021 report, list over 500 agencies in California that reported no use of force incidents to the California DOJ. The DOJ report only indicates 660 cases analyzed for 2021. This in no way will reflect the true numbers for a proper analysis to be made.
The numbers reported and collected by the K9 Activity Tracking System show a significantly higher number of incidents totalling over a period of time from 2017 to 2023, totalling 4,217 reported use of force cases involving police dogs in California. This allows for a much larger pool of information and a wider perspective on the realities of police dog deployments.
Given extensive law enforcement experience, the implementation of AB742 will result in more officer involved shootings, and more suspect deaths. Police dogs have proven to save lives and reduce officer involved shootings. They are a proven deescalation tool and preventing their use to apprehend suspects will result in situations where a dog could have been implemented turning into shootings that result in unnecessary loss of life. Historically, that is normally the loss of suspect life meaning that if the true spirit of this bill is to prevent grievous injustice, if passed it will undoubtedly do exactly the opposite. Lives that could be saved by a police dog, because of this legislation will be lost.
The facts and actual statistics of police dog deployments in the DOJ Report the writers of AB742 claim they use to back up their claims clearly show the information they are providing is patently false, and not what the DOJ report actually states.
The information used in AB742 is obviously cherry picked, extremely skewed and patently false. When scrutinized with an objective eye to see what the actual documented figures are, the information in AB742 is not accurate and appears totally fabricated. This bill is being pushed through based on false information using racism as a red herring or excuse.
Also of note, I have written to the authors of AB742 and offered to sit with them at no cost and guide them through the facts. I also offered to assist them in finding ways to improve K9 policing within the state of California that would be highly beneficial and would likely also have the added benefit of likely reducing the number of contacts with suspects by police dogs. If they are legitimately concerned, there are good solutions and I am willing to assist them in that endeavour. I have sent them the specific detailed statistics from the KATS database, and to date, neither has seen fit to acknowledge my attempts to connect with them. I also did the same for every member of the California House Appropriations committee, also with negative response.
Clear Realities of Police Dog Bites
The following numbers are the nationwide realities of what officers are entering into the KATS K9 RMS. This reflects the true reality of what is happening on the street as opposed to what the media, anti-police and anti-police k9 organizations are disseminating.
Black K9 Arrests 10,528
Black Bites 372
Bite Ratio 3.5%
96.5% of police dog deployments on black suspects where there is a potential for the dog to physically apprehend the suspect, the arrest resulted in no physical contact of the suspect by the dog once the dog located them.
Hispanic K9 Arrests 5,331
Hispanic Bites 513
Bite Ratio 9.6%
90.6% of police dog deployments on Hispanic suspects where there is a potential for the dog to physically apprehend the suspect, the arrest resulted in no physical contact of the suspect by the dog once the dog located them.
White K9 Arrests 11,527
White Bites 876
Bite Ratio 7.6%
92.4% of police dog deployments on white suspects where there is a potential for the dog to physically apprehend the suspect, the arrest resulted in no physical contact of the suspect by the dog once the dog located them.
All Other Demographics K9 Arrests 3,172 (These would be considered other visible minorities, ie) Filipino, Asian, Native Indian, East Indian etc.)
All Other Demographics Bites 124
Bite Ratio 3.9%
96.1% of police dog deployments on other visible minority suspects where there is a potential for the dog to physically apprehend the suspect, the arrest resulted in no physical contact of the suspect by the dog once the dog located them.
Total Arrests by K9's 30,558
Total Bites 1885
National Bite Ratio 6.2%
93.8% of police dog deployments on all suspects where there is a potential for the dog to physically apprehend the suspect, the arrest resulted in no physical contact of the suspect by the dog once the dog located them.
These stats are from June 2017 to March 2023 and do not include any arrests in the calculation where the dogs were deployed for detection purposes. These are stats where under normal circumstances, a dog would have the potential opportunity to bite if circumstances warranted.
The data collected nationally through the KATS K9 RMS system shows a very similar pattern to that of California. The California numbers are slightly higher, due to the reduced overall numbers in the data set. Most significantly the data sets from the California DOJ, and the KATS K9 RMS concur in their statistical analysis, clearly proving that the black community is not being targeted more than other communities when it comes to being apprehended by police dogs.
It is important to note that these statistics do not take into account data that provides for demographics that are involved in crime. Statistics will vary depending on the demographic of the area being policed and the demographics of suspects who are committing the most crime. For example, higher numbers of Hispanic K9 contact would be expected in areas of high Hispanic population and crime when that crime is committed primarily by those in the Hispanic community. The same would hold true in a predominately White community.
When police dogs are used to locate suspects, often the officers searching do not have any descriptions of suspects, and frequently the race of the suspect is unknown until the officers catch up to the suspect and make an arrest. This of itself removes any possibility that race is a factor. A typical example would be officers responding to an alarm on a fresh burglary where police find a broken entry point and the suspect(s) have fled. A dog is deployed to located the perpetrators. When the suspect is located by the dog and remains hidden, refusing to surrender, and the dog makes an apprehension for the safety of the officers and to dissuade the suspect from using a firearm if he is armed, the officers have no way of knowing what the race of the individual is. This is a very common example and negates racism accusations if the suspect is apprehended by a police dog before the officer has a clear view of the offender. Situations such as these are never taken into account with these stats, however if they were, would serve to only further water down the racism claims suggested by Jackson and Kalra.
When reading the bill, it is based on accusations that police dogs are used on communities of color more than “other” demographics. The only other demographic is the white demographic. In particular the bill tends to focus on specifically the black demographic with its claims of how the black community is abused more than twice the rate of other communities. In fact, when the real data is allowed to be brought forth, the Hispanic community is the community that is affected more than others.
What is not being brought to the fore is other aspects of why communities of color may be affected more in some areas than the white, Asian, Native Indian, East Indian communities. The elephant in the room is what communities are responsible for the vast majority of crime in those areas. In particular, in specific areas of the United States, look at what the demographics are for gang activity, which ties up an enormous amount of law enforcement resources and thus make up a significant part of the statistical data.
The most recent information provided by the National Gang Center website show the ethnic breakdown of gangs as 46 percent Hispanic/Latino gang members, 35 percent African-American/black gang members, more than 11 percent white gang members, and 7 percent other race/ethnicity of gang members. Figures and data can be viewed here.
In short, the black and Hispanic demographic make up 81% of gang members in the United States.
As another example of demographic instance, according to the FBI 2019 Uniform Crime Report, African-Americans accounted for 55.9% of all homicide offenders in 2019, with whites 41.1% and 3% accounting for other races. It should however be noted that the UCR system combines the Hispanic community with the white community, therefore there is no way to distinguish a further breakdown. Regardless, the patterns are consistent with what is seen in use of force reports, thus nullifying accusations of one race being abused over another. The issue is not police abusing people of color it is an issue of police interacting with whoever is committing the crime, regardless of race.
This plays a significant factor in the number of police interactions with both Hispanic and African American criminal suspects. It should come as no surprise that the deployment of police dogs would result in more contact with races in areas where there is more active criminal activity.
The accusation that police are deploying dogs in a wanton manner on visible minorities is clearly unfounded and not based in fact. Politicians who are promoting police abuse as the issue, are not being honest with themselves nor the communities they serve, and in fact by continuing to take away the less lethal options that police have at their disposal only serves to further endanger those who they say they are trying to protect.
Yet another factor not taken into consideration is the number of black and Hispanic officers who make up a significant number of the law enforcement team, many who are dog handlers. While there are significant officers who are of these community demographics, those who accuse police of racial abuse fail to take this into consideration.
Police dogs are one of the most versatile tools in a police agency’s toolbox. In fact, when properly trained, it is the only tool that once it is sent to make an apprehension, that can be recalled without having to inflict harm should circumstances suddenly change.
History has proven that police dogs significantly reduce officer involved shootings and thus save the lives of both officers and suspects alike. This has been proven with past experience in San Diego Police Department when they increased the use of apprehension dogs, police involved shootings declined until they were pushed during the Obama era and defund movement to reduce the number of apprehension dogs on the street. The results? Assaults on officers and officer involved shootings increased. (K9 Supervisors Manual by R.S. Eden pp 11-13)
When this capability is removed by politicians who for whatever reason cannot accept this fact, it will result in more deaths because one of the most valuable less lethal options have been taken from law enforcement. Ultimately, in many situations they will be left no choice but that of lethal force in order to preserve their own lives. If brought into law, AB742 will backfire significantly, and it will be because politicians who are trying to satisfy their base, are willing to do so using data they know to be false basing their decision on emotion rather than educating their base as to what the real issues are and coming up with better solutions.
There are real solutions that can be developed to help to reduce the number of bites by police dogs, however it takes a multi-tiered approach with funding, training and serious implementation if politicians want to make a significant difference.
There is so much that can be done to improve operational policing when it comes to the training and deployment of police dogs. Changes that would help meet the intentions of the politicians that are currently trying to ban their use as well as be met with positive support from law enforcement agencies across the board. However, this will only be possible when politicians stop using accusations of racial discrimination and approach the issues of police dog deployments with an objective eye and start asking what they can do to truly make a difference. They can make a real difference by simply working with law enforcement, and those changes would be a win/win for all involved.
Should they take that approach, they will undoubtedly save lives, reduce police dog interaction with suspects, and ultimately see positive changes in their communities as a result.
The reasoning for AB742 is based on false pretenses and the statements in the bill are simply not true and are not well thought out. It will be interesting to see if Assemblymembers other than those who submitted and supported this bill initially have the integrity to see through it and not make a decision that will ultimately cost more lives of officers and civilians alike.