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Sheriff Withrow fights state bid to outlaw use of police dogs
k9 pix
Pluto, the Oakdale K9 unit, sits proudly with the evidence he helped secure following the arrest of two wanted parolees Friday, April 9. The drugs were found in an Oakdale motel where the two men were staying. Photo Contributed

San Joaquin County Sheriff Pat Withrow wants to do everything in his power to make sure that his deputies have all the tools necessary to do their job safely and effectively.

And that, Withrow said, includes the use of K9 partners.

On Monday, Withrow – who ran unopposed in 2022 and will serve county residents for six years thanks to a push to realign the state’s elections to create uniformity – used a portion of his monthly video address to constituents to lobby against a bill he says is currently headed to the floor for a vote.

Assembly Bill 742, Withrow said, would effectively eliminate the use of K9 units in law enforcement for apprehension, and will soon be voted on by the California Assembly.

“It was written by people who have no idea what the policies are for K9s or how we use them nowadays,” Withrow said. “It’s just a way, it looks like to me, for them to get some type of news time or publicity – it would be devastating to our law enforcement community and our public if we lost that tool to safely take people into custody.”

Withrow’s remarks came after thanking the community for its outpouring of support over the death of K9 “Duke” – who was stabbed last month while attempting to apprehend a burglary suspect near a railyard in Tracy. Law enforcement personnel from throughout the area, the state, and even the country offered their condolences, Withrow said, and supported the agency through that dark chapter.

While Withrow didn’t draw any comparisons between the bill and the line-of-duty death of Duke, he did spell out how the use of trained K9 units during apprehensions actually improves the outcome of both the suspects and the officers both – something he said is being lost in the push to take away tools that officers use in the line of duty every day.

“It’s safer for people being apprehended, and it’s safer for the officers,” Withrow said. “If we continue to remove these tools that are less than lethal – that they keep doing with these laws – then it’s leaving us with very little choice when we apprehend people.

“It’s doing the exact opposite of what they want to do.”

Assembly Bill 742 was approved 6-2 by the California Assembly Public Safety Committee last week and will now head to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for further consideration.

To contact Bulletin reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.