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Are LA's Police K9s Racist Against African Americans and Latinos?

Did you know that in the first six months of 2013, every single person who was bitten by a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department dog was either African American or Latino? That’s a fact, according to the Police Assessment Resource Center, which works with law enforcement agencies, government officials, court-ordered monitors and civic groups to promote respect, accountability and effectiveness among police.

Police dog bites, justified or otherwise, have long been a problem for our neighbor to the north. In the 1980s, reports the Independent, some officers notoriously referred to African-American youths as “dog biscuits.”

This report is the 33rd semiannual report on the LASD focusing on its canine-officer program and an officer disciplinary initiative called the Education Based Discipline program. While the report found notable improvements in the disciplinary program, it highlighted some troubling issues in the department’s use of canine officers:

  • The overall number of LASD dog bites is the rise.
  • Dog bites were much more likely to be the cause of injures to suspects and bystanders than other law enforcement tools -- including guns.
  • Dogs were employed much more often in jurisdictions with larger numbers of minority residents.

In fact, between 2004 and 2012, the number of Latinos bitten by LASD dogs rose by 30 percent; African Americans bitten by 33 percent. People living in areas with the highest proportions of Latinos and African-Americans -- Century City, Compton, Lakewood, South LA/Lennox and the City of Industry -- suffered more LASD dog bites than those in all other areas in the jurisdiction combined.

“Crime rates are lower in these areas,” the report says, “but the stark disparity leads us to wonder why canine deployments seem to occur disproportionately in less affluent areas with larger minority populations.”

Dog’s aren’t racist -- even these dogs. They’re being employed in areas where they are most likely to encounter minorities, and bite them.

Dog bite injuries can be extremely serious, and the infliction of harm that can potentially lead to disfigurement, nerve damage and permanent disability is not a law enforcement tool. Let’s hope that San Diego’s police use their K9 officers more wisely.

Source: The Independent, "'Racist' LA police dogs only bite Latinos and African-Americans," Tim Walker, Oct 11, 2013

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