An Ohio police officer filmed unleashing a police dog on an unarmed Black truck driver during a July 4 traffic stop has been fired. We speak with legal scholar Madalyn Wasilczuk, who has helped represent teenagers in Louisiana attacked by police dogs and who says that dogs do not receive the proper amount of scrutiny when used in policing. “They’re seen as these valorized K-9 cop heroes, and we don’t focus so much on the real violence that they do,” says Wasilczuk. “Videos like this really highlight the problems.” Wasilczuk explains that the use of police dogs in apprehension is part of a widespread pattern of racialized violence by police that dates back to slavery.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.
A warning to our viewers and listeners: This next segment includes graphic details.
An Ohio police officer filmed unleashing a police dog on an unarmed Black truck driver during a July 4th traffic stop has been fired. The Circleville Police Department said actions taken by officer Ryan Speakman, quote, “did not meet the standards and expectations we hold for our police officers,” unquote.
Video of the incident shows 23-year-old truck driver Jadarrius Rose had his hands in the air when Officer Speakman directed the dog to maul him. Speakman released the dog even though state police officers repeatedly warned him not to.
HIGHWAY PATROL TROOPER 1: Do not release the dog with his hands up. Do not release the dog with his hands up! Don’t! Dude, do not! Do not! Do not! Get the dog off of him! Get the dog off of him!
JADARRIUS ROSE: Get it off!
HIGHWAY PATROL TROOPER 2: Get the dog!
JADARRIUS ROSE: Get it off! Get it off of me!
AMY GOODMAN: After being attacked by the dog, Jadarrius Rose was hospitalized with significant bleeding on his arms, then booked on felony charges of failure to comply. Prior to being pulled over and attacked by the dog, Rose had called 911 from his truck, saying he feared the police who were pursuing him were trying to kill him.
JADARRIUS ROSE: I don’t know why they’re trying to kill me.
911 DISPATCHER: They’re not trying to kill you.
JADARRIUS ROSE: Yes, they are, obviously. They’re throwing stuff on the ground, trying to explode the tire.
911 DISPATCHER: Right, so you’ll stop.
JADARRIUS ROSE: Right. So they are trying to kill me.
911 DISPATCHER: No, they’re not trying to kill you.
JADARRIUS ROSE: They are. Yes, they are, because I do not feel safe with stopping. I don’t know why they’re throwing stuff on the ground, trying to get me in an accident.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined now by Madalyn Wasilczuk, an assistant professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law, author of an article in The Georgetown Law Review headlined “The Racialized Violence of Police Canine Force.”
First of all, Professor Wasilczuk, if you can start off by talking about this horrific case? And for people who can’t see it, you have this police officer releasing a dog on a man whose arms — he had been instructed to put his arms in the air, and they were. You see a woman officer putting her hands over her face, running from the attack. You see the state troopers warning the police officer, “Do not release that dog.” But he does. How typical is this, not only of today, but of the history of the use of dogs, especially on people of color in this country?
MADALYN WASILCZUK: So, I think one thing that’s so disturbing is that we don’t know exactly how common it is, because no one keeps any statistics at all about — or at least not made public nationally, of how many dogs bite people every year, the races of those people, the reasons that the dog was set on them.
And this isn’t the only time where I’ve seen people, hands in surrender, have dogs set on them. I’ve seen videos of people holding their hands up and having the dog set on them, of having the dog set on — lifted through a window to be set on them. And sometimes police use dogs against folks who they don’t even know who the target is. So, Joseph Pettaway in Alabama was killed by a police dog when he was repairing a home, working as a handyman, and the police set a dog inside, and it killed him.
This is really an example of what Ruth Wilson Gilmore calls “racism’s changing same.” Dogs were used by militaries first, and this is another example of militarism. And when colonists came to the United States, they were used to terrorize the Taíno people, the Indigenous people of this country. And then they were employed in hunting enslaved people. And, of course, we’re — many of us, almost all of us, are familiar with the images of dogs attacking students during the civil rights movement, but we may be less familiar with the fact that police dogs were used that way across the country, including by white supremacist groups in Cairo, Illinois. So there’s a throughline of this militarize, racialized violence when it comes to police dogs.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about even the use of the language, the K-9 units, referring to them as “K-9s” as opposed to “dogs”?
MADALYN WASILCZUK: Yeah. So, I think when we talk about K-9s, there’s this euphemism. There’s also this belief that the dogs are specialized, that they’re almost like a tool that can’t be misused. So, dogs are set to track people, or dogs are set to, quote-unquote, “apprehend” people, which is what something like that mauling is called, especially if he had been running away, which he was not, of course, in this case. But that removal of both the animalistic and very violent nature of these types of attacks, and sort of trying to place it into euphemized and sanitized terms, I think, is where that “K-9” term comes from. And, of course, “canine” is changed from C-A-N-I-N-E to K-9, with this idea that these dogs —
AMY GOODMAN: The letter K and the number 9.
MADALYN WASILCZUK: — are technology. Right.
AMY GOODMAN: So, why do you feel that this use of police attack dogs — or, in a moment we’re going to hear the story of prison attack dogs — is not very much a part of the police reform discussion?
MADALYN WASILCZUK: I think, except for some videos that highlight this, it’s not as well known as it should be. When I started representing children in courts in Baton Rouge, we had kids coming in every three weeks or so with these really terrible bites and injuries. And that reporting was also followed up by The Marshall Project. And it was largely unknown in the public, outside of the communities that are most affected, outside of the kids that this happened to and their families. And I think the prison — the use of them for cell extractions in prisons is also widely unknown, even by scholars, and there’s just not much attention on it. I think videos like this really highlight the problems, and there’s been some outstanding reporting just in the last couple years across the country, in places like Indianapolis and the Bay Area, highlighting these problems. But we don’t know enough about it.
And I also think K-9s can be used as sort of fuzzy mascots. They’re brought on to morning shows. They get trotted out as a public relations tool. And so, there’s this warm feeling that many of us have for dogs. Of course, that has racial components, as well. But they’re used in that way, and we don’t focus on what they’re truly trained to do. And even in law schools, we really focus on dog sniffs, tracking, rescue operations. And so they’re seen as these valorized K-9 cop heroes, and we don’t focus so much on the real violence that they do when they’re used for, again, quote-unquote, “apprehension.”
AMY GOODMAN: So, finally, is there a call for police to stop using dogs around the country? You said in a recent study, conducted at your university and the University of Utah and Clemson, it was found that the sudden suspension of police K-9 units in Salt Lake City did not lead to a statistical increase in officer or suspect injury or suspect resistance during felony arrests. We just have a minute.
MADALYN WASILCZUK: Right. So, there was a bill that was pending in California this past term to ban the use of K-9s for apprehension. I haven’t seen that trend across the country. And it would be really helpful to know if there’s any benefit to these dogs. Of course, police believe there is, but I don’t see evidence that has borne that out. And I think if you’re going to use a tool that causes this much harm — and the harm is well known and documented — then it’s on the police to show why this is actually contributing to public safety. And if they can’t show that, then we should really reconsider this and stop using police as weapons in this way — police dogs.
AMY GOODMAN: Madalyn Wasilczuk, we want to thank you so much for being with us, assistant professor at University of South Carolina School of Law. We’ll link to your piece in The Georgetown Law Review headlined “The Racialized Violence of Police Canine Force.”
Coming up, we look at how attack dogs are terrorizing and mauling prisoners. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: “My Darling Child” by Sinéad O’Connor. She has died at the age of 56. Her son Shane took his own life a year and a half ago.