Richmond: Police review group addresses news report of excessive K-9 bites

Weeks after this news organization’s examination of records revealed that Richmond Police Department’s canines injured 73 people through their bites the past six years — more than half of all injuries reported — a police monitoring group discussed the article’s findings but did not call for any changes in protocol.

In a special meeting Wednesday, Richmond’s Community Police Review Commission, which has the authority to investigate allegations of excessive or unreasonable use of force by the department, reviewed the news report and the department’s use of police dogs.

Many of the commissioners questioned the rate and severity of the injuries, expressing frustration that the bites never came to light in previous meetings.

But police officials who attended the meeting defended the use of K-9 units, arguing that dog bites are less lethal options in apprehending criminals than gunfire.

Acting police Chief Louie Tirona said that only 45 people were bitten out of the 620 times police dogs were brought out since 2018, accounting for 7% of all interactions.

While he was amenable to additional study sessions on his officers’ use of police dogs, he complained that the data in the news report did not paint a comprehensive picture of all canine activities and instead focused solely on violent incidents.

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“We do believe our use of canines are well within the best practices within the industry,” Tirona said. “I regret every bite that occurs, but every one of these has a warning that is preceded, and I want the subjects who are wanted for crimes to submit.”

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After being sued by the Bay Area News Group and its media partners, the police department released records that showed it caused significant injuries 122 times over a six-year period, and dogs accounted for more than half. On average, police dogs violently apprehended one suspect every month since 2014.

An analysis of the records also showed that police dogs were four times more likely to cause great bodily injury than Tasers — one of the department’s other most common types of force. And out of 65 police reports that noted race, more than half of the people bitten were described as Black, despite accounting for only 20% of Richmond’s population.

Still, Richmond Police Officers Association president Benjamin Therriault did not mince words in criticizing the Bay Area News Group’s article, describing it as a “hit piece” crafted to “create a hysteria.”

“Over six years, to have that number of dog bites is actually low—that’s incredibly low,” Therriault said, adding that his own arm was “filleted” years ago from a police dog bite, requiring 20 stitches. “These comparisons were hyperboles on a statistical level. I think we’d rather have (dog bites) than …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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