Bill to prohibit use of K-9’s for arrest, apprehension, and crowd control passes Public Safety Commitee review by 6-2 vote Tuesday and now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

A bill that would heavily restrict the use of police K-9 units is was heard today by the Assembly Public Safety Committee at the State Capitol. The proposed bill is being heavily opposed by law enforcement leaders locally and across the state.

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The California Assembly Public Safety Committee has approved AB 742. The measure passed with a 6 to 2 vote, and it now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. 

Folsom Police Chief Rick Hillman is among the many law enforcement officers opposed to Assembly Bill 742.  The veteran police chief is concerned about the safety risk such a bill could cause to officers and suspects alike.

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“AB 742 has the potential to put more criminals and officers at risk. Instead of a dog being used as an apprehension tool,” said Hillman. “Officers will have no choice but to rely on a higher level of force, including impact tools and firearms – to make those lawful arrests.”

Authored by Assemblyman Corey Jackson (D-Moreno Valley), AB 742 would specifically end the use of K-9 units for arrest, apprehension, and crowd control purposes. If signed into law, the bill would still allow the use of K-9’s in law enforcement for search and rescue, explosive detection, and narcotic detection that does not include the use of biting or apprehending a suspect.

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Jackson announced his authoring of the bill last month. He did so in response to what he says is a high number of injuries caused by police K-9’s, as well as the historical use of them, Jackson states that K-9’s are also used disproportionately against, “African-Americans and other people of color.”

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“The use of police canines has inflicted brutal violence and lifelong trauma on Black Americans and communities of color,” said Jackson said in a statement backing his proposal.  “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.  This bill seeks to end a deeply racialized, traumatic, and harmful practice by prohibiting the use of police K-9s for arrest, apprehension, and crowd control.”

Throughout his career, Hillman has held many roles in the ranks of police work, among them being a K-9 handler for several years of his service. Experiencing it first hand, Hillman speaks highly of the training in place for police K-9’s and their handlers and ranks them as some of the best trained teams of any law enforcement agency.

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“Having been a police canine handler for over six years, I can speak to the truth of canine use in law enforcement, not using isolated incidents or unsifted raw data, but true facts,” said Hillman. “Normally, K9 teams train weekly and must recertify annually, unlike any other element of law enforcement.”

Hilllman explained how the use and deployment of a police K-9 in lies solely on the justification of the use of force needed in a given situation. He noted that a K-9 is not considered deadly force.

“Instead, they often prevent escalated force, including deadly force. Police chiefs and sheriffs will tell you that police dogs do more barking than biting,” explained Hillman. “That’s because a police dog’s bark frequently brings a swift surrender, which is the ideal outcome.  K9s are not used for minor offenders. Dogs are only used to apprehend serious offenders who are actively running, hiding, or resisting apprehension.”

Last week, Assemblyman Josh Hoover of Folsom,  was reaching out to those in his 7th Assembly District to educate them about the upcoming review of the proposed bill.  Hoover is in opposition of the bill and was urging the public to attend Tuesday’s committee meeting to share their thoughts on the proposal.

Like Hoover, Hillman hopes those in community will also speak out in regards in the proposed bill that will handicap officers even more when it comes to keeping communities safe.

“Eliminating police canines is the latest attempt to hamper law enforcement’s ability to protect their communities, added Hillman. “Instead, someone should propose legislation that would require criminals to surrender to law enforcement and argue their innocence in a court.  But laws are now written to protect the violator and neglect the victims.”

Like Hillman, police leaders in communities across the golden state are concerned about Jackson’s proposed bill. Many are expected to be in Tuesday’s Assembly Public Safety Committee meeting along with other public service representatives such as city council members and the general public. Chris Catren, who is the president of the California Police Chiefs Association is among them. 

“No one is arguing that irresponsible, criminal and negligent use of a canine is unacceptable, which is why we have such strict standards and laws on how and when canines can be used,” said Catren. “But removing a non-lethal and highly effective law enforcement ally, which is used primarily to de-escalate and diffuse volatile scenarios, gravely hinders our police officers’ safety and ability to reduce the amount of force used in those circumstances. The fact is that canines reduce more force than they ever use and banning them goes too far.”

Bill Sullivan
Author: Bill Sullivan

Bill Sullivan has over 25 years of professional journalism and content creation experience in which he has earned 37 professional awards. He is the co-founder/publisher of Folsom Times an All Town Media LLC product.