Bill would ban police canines for crowd control and arrests

May 17, 2023

A measure that would significantly restrict the use of police canines is scheduled for a key appropriations hearing this week. The League of California Cities opposes the bill, as it may limit police officers' ability to keep their communities safe.

AB 742 (Jackson) would specifically prohibit a police officer from utilizing an unleashed K9 to arrest or apprehend a person. Under this measure, police could not utilize K9s for crowd control at any assembly, protest, or demonstration, and canines could not bite in any circumstance. This would effectively limit the use of K9s to search and rescue, explosives detection, and narcotics searches.

The bill comes as many cities continue to grapple with police vacancies and the need for non-lethal enforcement tools. K9s have historically served as law enforcement team members and are responsible for countless saved lives and de-escalated situations. Data from cities shows high surrender and apprehension numbers with very low bite ratios and even fewer incidents resulting in significant injury.

In Fresno, for instance, a K9’s bark is often worse than its bite. According to the police chief, less than 1% of their deployments resulted in a bite. The Sacramento County Sheriff says that most police departments rarely use K9s for crowd control. Instead, they use them to reduce the risk of injury to police officers, as illustrated by an incident in Elk Grove that likely saved an officer’s life.

K9s are meant to be used as non-lethal options in circumstances that call for a more robust law enforcement response. AB 742’s overly broad restrictions do not consider the highly dynamic and sometimes unruly nature of some public demonstrations and calls for service.

Cities respect the established processes of civil suits, civil rights violation investigations, and the criminal prosecution of officers under SB 2 (Bradford, 2021). Established laws, oversight systems, and processes in California currently serve as an effective regulation of K9 use.

As drafted, this measure would leave law enforcement officers with limited options for prevention or intervention. AB 742 will be heard in the Assembly Appropriations Committee this week. Cal Cities will continue to oppose this measure as it moves through the legislative process.