The use of police dogs to grab bad guys who have run off and hidden in shrubs, under cars, and in sheds is a godsend. It often results in criminals being nabbed without gunfire or, god forbid, injury or death for cops working that thin blue line.
But in greater L.A., the recently released annual report by the county's special counsel says that the Sheriff's Department's 12-dog, $2.7-million-a-year Canine Services Detail might have a race relations problem:
In the first half of 2013, 100 percent of the L.A. Sheriff's Department's canine dog bites involved African American or Latino suspects.
You read that right.
Not only that, but the report says that in 2012 90 percent of such bites happend to “black or Latino suspects.”
The number of Latinos bitten by LASD dogs increased 30 percent from 2004 to 2012, the report says. For African Americans the increase during that period was 33 percent, the counsel's analysis says.
To be fair, half the population in L.A. is Latino. And dogs don't know if you're black or white. But cops often know what ethnicity a suspect is — frequently they'll call it out on their radios for backup to know — when they're deploying the canines.
Canine-involved apprehensions ended in dog bites 30 percent of the time for all suspects in recent years, an increase over 10 percent “not that many years ago,” according to the report.
Special counsel Merrick Bobb seems to suggest that the “wholesale degradation of accountability in the management of force” in other areas of the LASD might have spilled into canine supervision.
He recommends this:
Consideration might be given to a partial moratorium on the use of canines in all but the most critical circumstances involving armed suspects as practices are developed to curb the disproportionate impact.