Police Canines: A Necessary Tool

Assembly Member Jones-Sawyer, Chair

Assembly Public Safety Committee

1020 N Street, Room 111

Sacramento, CA 95814

Re: Letter of Opposition for AB 742 (Jackson)

Honorable Chairperson Jones-Sawyer:

As Chief of Police for the City of Palm Springs, I write you to prevent AB 742 from becoming law. AB 742 will harm all community members far beyond the positive intent of its authors. Police canines are an effective tool to prevent the escape of violent felons and reduce the use of lethal force by police.

In Palm Springs, police canines de-escalate situations where lethal force is permissible by law. Instead, our officers would rather use dogs than high levels of force. Canines are capable of and willing to face extraordinary danger on behalf of the community and our officers. Our canines have taken on knives, blunt instruments, and firearms. Unfortunately, one of our canines, Ike, was killed protecting our community.

Over the past five years, our canine partners were deployed 1,437 times at all times of the day and night and in various conditions. Of those deployments, six (6) people were bitten. Four of those bitten were white men, and the other two were people of color. I have been a police officer for 42 years, mainly in urban California. During that time, I cannot recall one death associated with police canines nor any injuries requiring extensive medical care.

Contrarily, I have seen, on many occasions, police dogs subdue subjects armed with weapons. The subjects could not listen to police commands due to mental disability or intoxication. In good faith and sound judgment, police chiefs have demanded our officers de-escalate volatile situations rather than use firearms. Our officers have accepted risky de-escalation because even though using force might be legally justified, it is not morally justifiable. Now, AB 742 seeks to eliminate a critical tool that prevents the use of lethal force.

There are other options. The legislature can define under what conditions canines can be deployed for violent or armed encounters. For example, you can limit off-lead apprehensions to violent felons or suspects displaying weapons that threaten the life and safety of others.

The police are forced to confront people experiencing a mental health crisis, homeless who are unable to understand the directions of police because of intoxication, and people choosing to ignore police commands when armed. AB 742 will inadvertently increase the number of police shootings.

Please stop this well-intended but naive bill in committee. 

With the best interest of California in mind,

Andrew G. Mills
Chief of Police, Palm Springs


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