L.A. Sheriff's Police Dogs Far More Likely To Bite Blacks, Latinos

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If you are black or Latino in Los Angeles County, you are far more likely to be bitten by a police dog than if you belong to other ethnicities.

In fact, in the first six months of 2013, LA Sheriff’s police dogs bit only blacks and Latinos. No white people were bitten at all.

That’s the finding of a report by the county’s Police Assessment Resource Center (PARC), which examined the LA County Sheriff’s Department and how it uses its canine units. The report found that between January of 2004 and June of 2013, only 2 percent of all police dog-bite incidents took place in jurisdictions the report describes as “the more affluent stations where Whites are the predominant ethnicity.”

Those areas include Malibu, Altadena and West Hollywood, among others.

On the other hand, of the 523 bites during that 8 1/2-year stretch, five stations — in areas described as less affluent with larger minority populations — had more biting incidents than the other 21 sheriff’s stations combined.

One of those, Century Station, recorded 78 police dog bites in that span, 15 percent of the total. The South Los Angeles station saw 60 bites while Compton recorded 49.

At the same time, the LA County Sheriff’s Department is more likely to release the dogs against suspects than it has in recent years.

“A trend to use canines in circumstances where lesser force had been used in the past,” PARC said in the report. “We believe that the handlers have been too quick to use dog bites in some situations where other, potentially less damaging force is available."

Tactics have shifted, the reports says, from “bark and hold,” in which a police dog corners a suspect and uses the threat of attack to keep him or her from moving, to a more violent technique known as “find and bite.”

In a “find and bite” situation, dogs are trained to clamp their jaws and teeth around a victim’s arm and hang on until officers can reach the scene.

The report also found some officers who stood by, waiting to issue the dog its command to release the suspect for as long as 40 seconds. The duration of a bite increases the chance that it will result in serious injury.

Sources: Think Progress, National Public Radio, Police Assessment Resource Center