Police dogs
Two police dogs. Courtesy San Diego Police

San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit has criticized legislation pending in the state Assembly that would significantly restrict the use of police dogs in law enforcement.

Assembly Bill 742 would prohibit California law enforcement agencies from using dogs in crowd control or to apprehend a suspect, except to avoid the imminent use of firearms.

Introduced by Assemblymember Corey Jackson from Riverside County, the bill states in a preamble that “the use of police canines has been a mainstay in this country’s dehumanizing, cruel, and violent abuse of Black Americans and people of color for centuries.”

But Nisleit said K-9s are indispensable in dangerous situations such as “searching in dark canyons, buildings, homes, or vehicles, where a concealed suspect maintains an advantage over officers.”

He added that suspects often surrender when they encounter a police dog, and only 1% percent of incidents in the past five years have resulted in a bite.

“The passage of AB 742 will put officers into more dangerous situations without a de-escalation tool that is capable of apprehending violent suspects without the use of a firearm,” he said.

Nisleit said the vast majority of K-9 deployments in San Diego are for de-escalating volatile incidents with confrontational, irrational, armed or suicidal subjects.

“The unintended consequence of this piece of legislation will be an increase in officer-involved shootings, officer and suspect injury, and increased threats to community safety,” he said. “I urge our legislators to keep this tool intact for the safety of our officers and the communities they serve.”

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.