Even the Police Dogs Are Racist in Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Police Department has long been plagued with accusations of racism, but generally these charges are pointed toward the officers. Now, however, some worry that the Los Angeles Sheriff Department Canine Special Detail is comprised of prejudiced pups, as well. In the first half of 2013, 100% of police dog bite victims in the city were either African American or Latino, writes The Independent.

While we can joke that “even the police dogs are racist,” the real blame falls on the Sheriff Department itself. The dogs are thoroughly trained and instructed when to attack civilians, so any discrimination that can be inferred from the bite statistics more accurately reflect the institutionalized racism of the LASD. The sheriffs determine which neighborhoods they bring their dogs to, as well as which suspects they ultimately unleash these dogs to catch.

It’s not just that the police dogs are being used against minorities to the exclusion of whites — they’re also being used more often. Since 2004, police canine bites increased by 30% and 33% on Latinos and blacks respectively.

“Crime rates are lower in these areas, but the stark disparity leads us to wonder why canine deployments seem to occur disproportionately in less affluent areas with larger minority populations,”¯ wrote PARC, the Police Assessment Resource Center, who released a study on the rate of police dog bites around the city. PARC noted that the areas with the highest percentage of minority residents like Compton, South LA and City of Industry experienced more police dog attacks than LASD’s 21 other districts combined. Meanwhile, sheriff dogs rarely patrol predominately white neighborhoods.

This discriminatory enforcement seems like business as usual for Los Angeles, which has already been warned by the Justice Department to cease its racial profiling measures. A study showed that blacks in LA are stopped at exceedingly higher rates than whites. Moreover, detained blacks are 127% more likely to be frisked, 76% more likely to be searched and 29% more likely to be arrested than a detained white suspect. LAPD’s Police Chief dismissed the study as a sign of “liv[ing] in an imperfect world”¯ rather than racial profiling

Though not lethal, police dog bites are known to cause excessive bodily harm. The Los Angeles Times reported that police dog pursuits “cause injuries at far higher rates than those associated with batons, tear gas, or even guns.”¯ 68% of such bites require a subsequent hospital visit, whereas batons and Tasers only result in hospitalization about 20% of the time. Because of the force of the bite, police dog attacks can also permanently disfigure those who are attacked.

The LASD Canine Special Detail has also faced criticism as to whether it has the control necessary to deploy these dogs in the first place. Over the years, Los Angeles has handled several lawsuits from suspects who were attacked after surrendering to the police. Additionally, on occasion, the dogs have accidentally attacked the wrong person, resulting in similarly hefty settlements against the city.

Following PARC’s report, the head of LASD’s canine program, Bruce Chase, has vowed to reduce the number of dog bites. It seems some reflection on the demographics of people the dogs are being used against would be warranted, too.

Photo Credit: U.S. Navy

138 comments

Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for the article.

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing

Angela Roquemore
Angela Roquemore3 years ago

Why am I NOT surprised by this but surprised that anyone else could be surprised?

Manuela C.
Manuela C.3 years ago

This type of problem is like a loop. These minorities tend to be marginalized, but often then don't want to blend with "white people" and they all live in these closed communities where, sometimes, the police can't even enter and there are (maybe not so) small criminal businesses...
I'm not defending this situation and I find racism disgusting. What I'm saying is that there are two sides for each story and that these people also contribute to their own marginalization...

J C Bro
J C Brou3 years ago

this situation is as american as apple pie and chevrolet

Nora McKellar
Nora M3 years ago

I find the title really misleading and is thus causing people to really miss the point of the article, I believe the author was trying to make the point that racial profiling is still a very big problem in police forces. No the dogs themselves aren't racist, they cant be, but the people who handle and instruct them could have a biased racial view. I think its interesting that the dogs are being used more in the minority neighborhoods as oppose to the predominately white ones but I think there are a lot of things we need to look at and a proper report with actual figures are needed

Mrs Shakespeare
Mrs Shakespeare3 years ago

LOL! Racist police dogs?
Ive had people from different nationalities and races visit my house and I can tell you my cat was equally mean to them all!

Mary L.
Mary L.3 years ago

If dogs are used with more frequency in one area and not another I have to wonder why. If dogs are automatically taken to one area for a specific crime and not another you have to ask why.

Dimitris Dallis
Past Member 3 years ago

They taught to be. Just like dogs in Greece are taught to attack policemen :)

Bruce K.
Bruce K.3 years ago

It might be because 100% of perpetrators were Black or Latino
That would be like asking why are only blacks are shot in South Chicago