Broward County’s Public Defender asked lawmakers Wednesday to do what they can to stop the practice of police dogs biting apprehended suspects.
Public Defender Gordon Weekes met with Broward County’s legislative delegation Wednesday and said he thinks the practice of police dogs biting suspects should end, and it needs a legislative fix.
He cited the Sun Sentinel’s coverage of the issue in, “The Hunted: Police K-9s are meant to stop dangerous felons. They’re more often unleashed on Black people accused of stealing.” The paper examined 17 months of records from major police agencies. Results showed that people who were bitten by police dogs were Black at a percentage far exceeding the percentage of Black arrestees.
It’s an outdated custom that needs to stop, Weekes told lawmakers.
The paper’s report also found that one in five people who were bitten were age 17 or younger.
“Dogs that are used to apprehend someone, do they need to bite you when they apprehend you? My position is they do not,” Weekes said. “They can announce they have found someone by barking or circling that individual, but biting is a custom that law enforcement has taken to that is unnecessary.”
Police practices have come under increased scrutiny since a cell phone video captured the death of George Floyd in May 2020 as a Minneapolis police officer held him down with a knee on his neck.
Weekes said he thinks legislation could change training and attitudes about dog bites.
“Legislation could be put in place to limit using canine dogs biting when they apprehend someone,” Weekes said.
Delegation members praised Weekes and Broward State Attorney Harold Pryor, both elected in 2020, for the way the two have worked to advance criminal justice reform in the county.
“I want to say what it’s like to sit here and hear the State Attorney talk so nice and so collaboratively with the Public Defender — it’s remarkable, frankly,” said State Rep. Michael Gottlieb.