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Citrus Heights council votes 4-1 to oppose AB 742, police K-9 bill

Councilwoman Porsche Middleton speaks during an April 13, 2023 Citrus Heights council meeting regarding AB 742.

By Mike Hazlip—
The Citrus Heights City Council voted earlier this month to officially oppose proposed state legislation aimed at preventing the use of police K-9s for arrest or crowd control.

During an April 13 council meeting, city leaders voted 4-1 to draft a letter of opposition to AB 742, a bill introduced by Assemblymember Corey Jackson (D-Riverside) that is making its way through California’s legislature.

The bill would eliminate the use of police K-9s for arrest, apprehension, or crowd control. Law enforcement agencies would also be prohibited from training police dogs to engage in those operations.

Police K-9s would still be allowed to detect drugs, explosives, or engage in search and rescue operations, according to the bill.

“The use of police canines has been a mainstay in this country’s dehumanizing, cruel, and violent abuse of Black Americans and people of color for centuries,” the bill’s short, one-page text states. “The use of police canines make people fear and further distrust the police, resulting in less safety and security for all, especially for communities of color.”

Citrus Heights Councilwoman Porsche Middleton, who was the lone “no” vote on the council, asked Citrus Heights Police Chief Alex Turcotte if the department deploys K-9s in a practice known as “find and bite” and if the agency follows Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) guidelines in the use of K-9 units. Turcotte affirmed that Citrus Heights police utilize “find and bite” and follow POST standards.

“The intent of the bill is important,” Middleton said. “We know that biases do exist in policing and that we cannot always overcome them.”

Middleton said she would prefer a substitute motion and suggested working with the bill’s authors to accomplish the bill’s goals. She suggested replacing “find and bite” with “find and bark.”

“I don’t think removing the K-9s is the issue, I think it’s how they’re deployed,” she said. “Anything we can do to keep our community safe and make sure the suspects — even though they’re possibly doing something wrong — making sure that we’re keeping them as safe as possible and not maiming them in the process is important.”

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Vice Mayor Bret Daniels asked Turcotte if department K-9s have ever maimed people. Turcotte responded saying “We never intend to do that,” followed by more comments from Daniels, who has a background serving in law enforcement.

“When we talk about bias in law enforcement, police work, what not, we need to get to 2023,” Daniels said. “The fact is that police K-9s save lives and they save serious injury. And those lives and those serious injuries that they’re saving are usually police officers, but not always, because had a person not been apprehended through the use of that K-9, who knows what might have happened.”

The vice mayor also compared find and bark, also known as “circle and bark,” to carrying an unloaded gun, saying suspects will not respect law enforcement orders in those situations.

Daniels’ comments were cut short by ongoing audio issues at the meeting involving loud crackling noises that at one point prompted a 5-minute recess.

The resolution to submit a letter of opposition to AB 742 passed with support from Daniels along with Mayor Tim Schaefer and councilmembers MariJane Lopez-Taff and Jayna Karpinski-Costa. Middleton voted against the item.

AB 742 is slated to be heard by the Assembly’s Committee on Appropriations on April 26, 2023. It passed the Assembly’s Committee on Public Safety on March 21.

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