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Effort to restrict police dogs sidetracked at Capitol
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Bulletin file photo Manteca Police drug dog “Rusty” pulls his handler Officer Mike Kelly on his way into an apartment search on South Union road. The canine found some $20,000 in drug money earlier in the day. - photo by GLENN KAHL

A bill introduced into the California State Assembly that would have severely restricted the use police canines by law enforcement agencies will not become law.

The bill, AB 742, was being placed in the “inactive file” in the Assembly in Sacramento and will not make it out of the committee that was reviewing it for a full vote.

San Joaquin County Sheriff Pat Withrow has been vocal about his opposition to the bill since it was introduced because of the way that it would remove a tool for law enforcement officers to help protect themselves and the people that they come into contact with during the course of their work.

According to Withrow, the use of a police canine benefits both the officers in the field and even the suspects that they must arrest – creating an additional option for officers to use before they must advance to using potentially lethal force.

Proponents of the bill – which was introduced by Assmeblymember Corey Jackson – would have created additional standards for when canines can be deployed similarly to the standards that exist for when an officer is authorized to deadly force.

While those in favor of the bill – including the NAACP and the ACLU – say that it creates an additional layer of protection for minority groups that they claim are on the receiving of apprehension canines more often than their counterparts, the additional standards would also impact the way dogs are deployed for things like bomb and drug detection.

Jackson, who represents Perris in Southern California, did not have the necessary votes to get the bill passed and faced stiff opposition from law enforcement agencies throughout California.

Agencies such as the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office oftentimes use canines that are cross trained in multiple specialties. One such dog, Rango, has alerted on multiple large-scale drug smuggling operations in the last 12 months – removing tens of thousands of counterfeit fentanyl pills of the street as well as dozens of pounds of methamphetamine.

And earlier this year the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office lost a K9 officer when “Duke” was stabbed during an apprehension in Tracy. His partner, Michael Stewart, told KCRA 3 of Sacramento that he “thanked God” that he had a K9 partner with him that day as it could have been him or a Tracy Police officer that was stabbed instead had they entered the same room.

To contact Bulletin reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.