A nonprofit news organization covering the U.S. criminal justice system
Police departments love to show off their dogs—at parades or on Twitter, visiting classrooms or posing with a Girl Scout troop. Some K-9s even have their own adorable Instagram accounts.
But police dogs are weapons. They bite and maim. They attack bystanders, police officers, and people suspected of petty crimes. And if you are unfortunate enough to get bitten by a police dog, good luck holding anyone accountable.
Dogs have served as instruments of violence in incidents dating back to the days of slavery, and as recently as the Black Lives Matter protests. In a year-long investigation, we talked to the people who train the dogs, the police officers who use them, and the victims who have been mauled by them. We watched dozens of videos of dog bites, from police body cameras and bystanders’ cell phones. We learned a lot about the dogs, which have names like Drogo, Missile, Vader, Storm and Rambo.
There are no national standards for police dog training, yet dogs are responsible for sending thousands of Americans to hospital emergency rooms every year. Few ever get justice. Illustrations by Ross Sneddon
When police dogs are weapons