REPORT: ‘Police Cannot Adequately Control Attack Dogs, Who Maul’ People, Especially POC

By Kapish Kalita 

SACRAMENTO, CA – A report on California police “attack dogs” has found “police cannot adequately control their attack dogs, who regularly maul bystanders and fail to stop attacking when recalled.”

According to ACLU California Action earlier this month, “Weaponizing Dogs: The Brutal and Outdated Practice of Police Attack Dogs” chronicled in a “first-of-its-kind” report examining the “outdated and dangerous police practice of using attack dogs to bite and maim members of the public.”

The report found that “attack dogs inflict serious injuries on people who do not pose a danger to officers or others..police are using attack dogs specifically to bite and threaten people experiencing a behavioral health crisis” and “use attack dogs to perpetrate racialized violence.”

The ACLU described an example of one of these brutal dog attacks, referencing, “David Silva, who was killed in May 2013 after Kern County Sheriff’s deputies released a police attack dog on him before beating and hogtying him,” adding the “dog attack(ed)  David” while he was “deep asleep.”

The ACLU cautioned the vast majority of those attacked by dogs do not pose any danger.

Carmen-Nicole Cox, director of government affairs at ACLU California Action, said, “The vast majority of Californians severely injured by police attack dogs are not armed with any weapon, according to data reported by police agencies to the CA Department of Justice,” and that “the state of California must act with urgency to protect the public and enact legislation addressing police agencies’ use of attack dogs.”

The report added that “police deployment of attack dogs has resulted in severe injuries and deaths…according to an expert medical opinion published by a team of clinicians with Physicians for Human Rights (PHR).”

PHR collaborated with the ACLU, obtaining “data from 30 cases in California involving police canine bites in recent years,” which “the organization then shared with PHR for independent medical review.”

Altaf Saadi, MD, neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, Assistant Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, and PHR medical expert who co-authored the expert opinion released by PHR said, “Californians have suffered extreme physical and psychological harms from the unleashed brutality of police attack dogs.”

Saadi added, “The bites from police attack dogs – which are disproportionately weaponized against Black Californians – cause deep and lasting wounds that often result in long-term pain and permanent disability, including nerve injury, loss of function of arms and legs, disfigurement, and enduring psychological trauma.”

The ACLU report “details personal testimony from Californians who have had loved ones killed or injured by police attack dogs and collects stories of dogs attacking people,” including statistics describing data displaying community trends related to dog attacks.

The reports lists Richmond where “police attack dogs were involved in 60 percent of use of force cases which resulted in great bodily injury or death over a five-year period”; Fairfield, where “in the same time period, over 61 percent of people bitten by police attack dogs were Black, in a city whose population is just 16 percent Black”; and Bakersfield, where in 2020, 89 percent of police dog attacks resulting in severe injuries were against a Black or Latine individuals, though Black and Latine residents collectively make up just 59 percent of the city’s population.”

Overall, the report concludes “eliminating or seriously constraining police agencies’ ability to deploy attack dogs would not negatively impact public safety outcome” and “[e]xisting state law and police policies fail to prevent police attack dogs from unnecessarily inflicting violence against the public or provide accountability when individuals are harmed by their indiscriminate and unnecessary use.”

The report notes, “Assembly Bill 742 (Jackson), currently in the California legislature, would create statewide standards restricting the use of police canines.”

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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