Toward the end of 2013, an interesting question was raised: Are Los Angeles police dogs racist?
Several news blogs and publications reported that a recent report on the Canine Special Detail of the LA Sherriff’s Department (LASD) found that these dogs had a pattern of biting “minority individuals” more frequently than others.
I, for one, am not as confounded by this information as my fellow reporters. I simply assume that the issue of these seemingly racist dogs is likely just a symptom of the problem of racism that exists “at the other end of the leash.”
This was the same argument that The Daily Show featured on a recent segment.
An Independent news article used the headline, “‘Racist’ LA police dogs only bite Latinos and African-Americans,” and commented on the long line of accusations of institutional racism against the LASD.
In fact, according to the Police Assessment Resource Center, every single LASD dog-biting incident in the first half of 2013 included an African-American or Latino victim.
This article and others also reported that, in the 1980s, some Los Angeles officers “would allegedly refer to black youths as dog biscuits.”
In a ThinkProgress article on the subject, it was reported that LA’s African American community has been subject to “excessive violence from the sheriff’s department.”
Several incidents along these lines are detailed in the ThinkProgress article, confirming my suspicions that the LASD canines have not been born into singling out minorities but were actually conditioned under the guidance of their handlers.
The Daily Show, mentioned earlier, was hosted by Jessica Williams, who comically raised the question, “Do white people just not taste as good as we do?”
Well, I actually don’t think LASD dogs have had the chance to discover if that is in fact the case since they aren’t exactly brought in contact with majority individuals often enough to grab a bite.
A recent investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice found that, in areas under the jurisdiction of the LASD, minorities were more likely to be stopped and searched than whites.
Further, there have been little to no incidents of dog bites in “affluent areas with smaller minority populations.”
Most reports confirm that Bruce Chase, the lieutenant in charge of the canine unit in 2013, insisted that the department would lower its percentage of dog bites … though there was no mention of any comment on the accusations that his dogs have been acting in a manner that indicates that they are definitely not color-blind.
I would think that in the wake of the infamous 1992 Rodney King Riots, the L.A. police force would act more directly toward getting itself out of the racial doghouse.
Perhaps you really cannot teach an old dog new tricks.