A new report on the Los Angeles Sheriff Department Canine Special Detail finds that the number of minority individuals bitten by police dogs has dramatically increased between 2004 to 2012. In a department already plagued by accusations of racial targeting, 100 percent of dog bite victims in the first six months of 2013 were blacks and Latinos.
In the past nine years, the minority-heavy, urban areas of Century, City of Industry, Compton, Lakewood, and South LA/Lennox, experienced more dog bites than 21 other agencies or stations combined.
One of the more troubling aspects of the report found that police canines cause injuries at far higher rates than other weapons, such as batons, tear gas, and guns. The pressure from a dog bite is equivalent to “a car tire running over a body part,” as one federal judge put it.
Dog bites are not the only police tactic blacks and Latinos in Los Angeles have to fear. The LASD has racked up a lengthy racial profiling record. The Department of Justice found that the LASD systematically singles out blacks and Latinos for stops, seizures, and excessive force at higher rates than other races.
LASD officers regularly target immigrants without legal authority. A class-action lawsuit against the department charged the LASD was holding thousands of immigrants in jail cells for longer than the legal maximum of 48 hours. Detained immigrants were also not allowed to post bail even after a court allowed it. In 2011, the sheriff’s department illegally detained nearly 20,000 people on immigration holds for an average of three weeks longer than inmates without immigration holds.
Los Angeles’ African American community has also seen excessive violence from the sheriff’s department. Last year, officers shot an 18-year-old African American teen while he was handcuffed, and then later tried to cover up the killing. Around the same time, officers stomped on a young black woman’s genitals before forcing her into the backseat of a police vehicle. The woman later died, leaving behind two young children.
Bruce Chase, the lieutenant in charge of the canine unit, insists that the department has and will continue to reduce its percentage of dog bites. Still, the LASD has been entrenched in police-sanctioned canine brutality since the 1980s. At the time, police called black youths “dog biscuits.”