Los Angeles Sheriff's Dogs Bite Only Blacks and Latinos?

(The Root) — During the first six months of 2013, 100 percent of the people bitten by dogs in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Canine Services were black or Latino.

That's 100 percent. As in every single one.

The data comes from a report by the Police Assessment Resource Center, a nonprofit organization that aims to "strengthen police oversight so as to advance effective, respectful and publicly accountable policing."


Clearly, these people have job security — they have their work cut out for them in Los Angeles.

According to PARC's records, the number of Latinos bitten by LASD dogs increased 30 percent from 30 bites in 2004 to 39 in 2012. The number of blacks bitten increased 33 percent for the same time period, from 9 to 12. And when it came to the beginning of 2013, white people didn't have to worry about police-initiated animal attacks at all.

It's no secret that L.A.'s law-enforcement officers have historically struggled with racial profiling (that's putting it as mildly as calling Rodney King's infamous brutal beating an "incident"). And just this year, the New York City Police Department was forced to revamp its stop-and-frisk policy thanks in part to data on the shockingly disproportionate number of times that black and Latino men were apprehended by officers.

But seriously — are man's best friends now profiling perpetrators, too?

Not likely (although there is actually a case to be made that doggie racism is a real thing). Given the context, our best guess is that this is simply more bad news about humans dealing with the whole "a person's race isn't a good reason to decide they're dangerous" thing, which seems to be becoming more difficult to grasp all the time.

Just like judgment calls about who's "suspicious," and determinations about when to pull out handcuffs, the animals are under the control of the law-enforcement officers who are paid to figure out who represents a threat. And you don't have to study the PARC data too hard to guess that, for the sheriffs in Los Angeles, race and color have a lot to do with that.

The authors of the study recommended that the department improve canine-deployment policies, employ alternative use-of-force measures and track bite incidents for individual dogs and handlers.


We recommend that they become about 100 percent more committed to not letting their dogs' bites communicate their biases.