A bill banning the use of K9 officers in the field for arrests, apprehensions, and crowd control advanced out of a key California State Assembly committee on Monday.
One Valley lawmaker, Asm. Juan Alanis (R–Modesto) cast one of two dissenting votes. The former Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Sergeant joined former CHP Sergeant Asm. Tom Lackey (R–Palmdale) in a party-line vote.
The backstory: While Assembly Bill 742, pitched by Asm. Corey Jackson (D–Perris) would bans key uses for K9 officers in the field, it would still enable law enforcement agencies to “search and rescue, explosives detection, and narcotics detection that do not involve biting.”
- Local law enforcement leaders argue that the current, holistic approach of K9 programs enable a decrease in the use of officer-led force, a key complaint of civil rights activists with regards to Golden State criminal justice.
- Jackson, however, argues that there are no uniform standards behind police agencies’ K9 programs.
The other side: Valley law enforcement leaders have piloried the measure as taking away another tool for safe policing.
- “They are vital to the safety of officers. They’re vital to searching buildings. They’re vital to keeping our community safe because the people that these dogs are going after are people that are violent, people that have committed serious crimes and people that are not following orders or commands of law enforcement and they’re resisting law enforcement,” Fresno County Sheriff John Zanoni told GV Wire.
- “By eliminating the use of K9s in these areas, it will reduce safety for police officers and increase the likelihood of force. With the ability to smell 10,000 times better than humans, police K9s are an invaluable asset when locating hidden suspects and providing protection to both our officers and our community,” Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama said in a statement.
- “[The K9 program] achieves safety for our officers to have those canines going to house and clear it out before officers’ lives are put at risk. And to take that tool away would be would be terrible. So I hope that doesn’t happen,” Clovis Police Chief Kurt Fleming said.
From the Capitol: Alanis issued a statement expressing dismay at the measure’s advancement in the Chamber.
- “I am really disappointed today. AB 742 just makes everyone unsafe. This makes police officers themselves less safe and, of course, it would also make all of our communities less safe by taking yet one more tool away from law enforcement to do their jobs,” Alanis said in a statement to The Sun. “I fear the unintended consequences of this bill will lead to law enforcement having to use a higher level of force because it takes away another, less lethal, use of force option.”