A California bill to ban the use of police dogs for arrests and crowd control has advanced in a state Assembly committee March 21.
Public Safety Committee members voted along party lines to pass Assembly Bill 742, introduced by Assemblymen Corey Jackson’s (D-Perris) and Ash Kalra (D-San Jose). Six Democrats voted in favor while the two Republican Assemblymen on the committee—Juan Alanis, of Modesto, and Tom Lackey, of Palmdale—voted against it.
The bill now moves to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
When AB 742 was introduced in February, Jackson and Kalra called the law enforcement’s use of canines “deeply racialized and harmful.” American Civil Liberties Union’s California chapter co-sponsored the bill.
“The use of police canines has inflicted brutal violence and lifelong trauma on Black Americans and communities of color,” Jackson said in a release. “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 bill would not prevent the use of police canines for search and rescue, bomb detection, or drug searches that do not involve biting, Jackson’s office said.
Lackey, who voted against the measure, said he believes law enforcement should be using police dogs more because they are less lethal than other de-escalation tools.
“Everybody wins, both the suspect and the officer, when you reduce resistance. And that is the role of canines,” he said at the committee hearing.
He said while in recent years the public has been asking law enforcement to use less lethal means of gaining compliance, he felt the bill “goes into a whole other direction.”
The bill is officially supported by more than 30 organizations—including California Public Defenders Association and National Police Accountability Project—and opposed by about 40 groups—more than 30 are law enforcement agencies across the state—according to a bill analysis prepared for the hearing (pdf).
Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said in a statement included in the bill analysis his current policy already prohibits deputies from using canines for crowd control at any assembly, protest, or demonstration, but he said he “cannot support a bill that severely restricts an officer’s ability to employ a proven, effective, and less lethal force option that can de-escalate other potentially life-threatening situations.”
In a previous interview with The Epoch Times, Ron Cloward, a police dog trainer and president of the Western States Canine Association, said the bill included a lot of false information.
“I’m just tired of people continuing to make race an issue,” Cloward said. “It’s not to me and it never has been, and it isn’t for most of the people I know. Don’t use the motivation of race to try to go after law enforcement and take another tool away.”
According to Cloward, during his career, having his police canine with him kept him from using deadly force in two situations.
Los Angeles-based attorney Donald Cook, who has represented clients injured by police canines for about 40 years, told The Epoch Times in February he agreed the legislation was needed but not for the racial issues presented by the politicians because “most cops are not racists. Most policing is not racially motivated.”
“Dogs should not be used to bite people, period,” Cook said. “It brings a level of psychological terror that you don’t get when it’s a human being doing whatever is being done to you.”