New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal is reportedly leaning toward banning the use of K-9s during arrests.
Some law enforcement and civil rights organizations want K-9s banned entirely when it comes to arrests, and the state attorney general said he would make a final decision in the coming months, NJ.com reports.
The “use of dogs against people of color has a long and horrific history,” Gurbir Grewal recently wrote to law enforcement leaders, citing the German Shepherds used against peaceful civil rights protesters in the 1960s.
Grewal directed staff to research how many police dogs are in the state, how they are trained and when they’ve bitten residents, among other information, and submit recommendations by the end of March.
The state’s new use-of-force policy does limit when officers can use K-9s.
Dogs cannot be used against someone who is only resisting arrest, and they cannot be used for crowd control at “peaceful demonstrations,” according to the rules. K-9s can be taken to protests to look for bombs or similar threats, and K-9s should only be used against a crowd if somebody’s life is at risk.
Even some law enforcement leaders believe K-9 use during arrests should be outlawed. “Dog bites can cause life-altering injuries, even death,” said Jiles Ship, a former police officer who now heads the state chapter of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.
It’s better to train cops how to de-escalate situations than invest in animals that can’t be fully controlled, he said. Even a dog’s presence can traumatize minority communities, and violent attacks can lead to expensive lawsuits, Ship added.
Others argued that suspects often surrendered without a fight only because a dog was nearby.
A ban would almost certainly not affect police dogs’ other jobs, such as looking for bodies in a collapsed building or sniffing out contraband. One State Police dog can even smell hidden electronics.