California lawmakers seek to ban police dogs from biting suspects

Two California lawmakers introduced a bill Monday that would ban the police use of K9s from being used in apprehensions, arrests and crowd control.

Assemblymembers Corey Jackson, D-Perris, and Ash Kalra, D-San Jose, highlighted Black History Month as they introduced AB-742, saying they wanted to end a practice with a troubling history involving African American communities.

The bill was co-sponsored by the California chapter of the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union. 

"The use of police canines has inflicted brutal violence and lifelong trauma on Black Americans and communities of color," Jackson said. "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."

Jackson said the bill would not touch the practice of using police dogs for sniffing out bombs or narcotics, or other applications that don’t involve biting, like search-and-rescue. 

"We’re trying to make sure people are not harmed and seriously injured by using K9s," he said. "Many of these bites can cause lifelong injuries. So let’s make this clear lifelong injuries before you’re proven guilty."

KTVU has been investigating California’s use of police K9s for the last year after exposing several troubling cases in the Bay Area.

The investigation found there are no state training standards or requirements for how police departments can use dogs – leading some agencies to liberally use K9s, while others rarely deploy them.

The investigation also found that Black and Brown people were bit disproportionately by police dogs compared to their white counterparts. 

AB-742 appears to be the first time state lawmakers have sought to significantly limit K9s as a use-of-force option. 

"This is an opportunity for us to continue to bring humanity to our criminal justice system, Karla said. 

But some experts in police dog training and tactics say the proposed legislation would have profound consequences. 

READ MORE: Unleashed Force: Power and Police Dogs 

"To me, it's a knee-jerk reaction," said Bob Eden, a retired police K9 handler in Canada who trains and consults with law enforcement all over North America. "A lot of times we're dealing with violent people that won't submit otherwise or wouldn't be captured otherwise."

Eden added that police dogs often deescalate situations before they’re ever deployed. 

"The number of dogs that are on the street reduce the number of assaults on officers and the number of officer involved shootings, which ultimately would also probably save the life of a number of suspects that otherwise would have been on the receiving end of gunfire," he said.

Evan Sernoffsky is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Email Evan at and follow him on Twitter @EvanSernoffsky