Law enforcement in California and throughout the nation hold a position of trust to keep members of the community safe. While some bad actors engage in instances of police brutality, they represent the exception, not the rule, and are often held accountable for their actions.
A different type of police brutality emerged in Richmond that may create a new chapter for law enforcement accountability for the violent actions they commit and the attacks of the canines that help them.
A shocking and dangerous trend
Investigations revealed that police dog attacks accounted for more than one-half of the 122 times force was used over a six-year span. The canine squad’s violence accounted for more than 70 people, from petty thieves to dangerous felons. Even more troubling were the injuries to innocent bystanders.
Several injuries from dog attacks were minor. However, the severity of other assaults required surgery to treat a torn-off lip, punctured scalp, and bites to various parts of the body.
The passage of SB 1421 in 2018 and a landmark lawsuit brought a much-needed bright spotlight on the problem. Opening police records and allowing access to body camera videos and images has given the public a view of the problems in using canines to “detain” suspects. Many law enforcement authorities and entities defied the law and continued to resist releasing sealed records. Eventually, they were forced to relent, providing the public a glimpse into the ugly truth.
Whether the bite from a dog is better than a bullet entering a suspect is not the issue. Taking a suspect into custody should not lead to a vicious dog attack that results in permanent physical injuries and a lifetime of trauma, if not an outright fear of dogs after the incident.