ACLU Files Complaint Against the City of Fresno

ACLU Files Complaint Against the City of Fresno
Black people were 2.6 times more likely to be seriously injured by police canines than white people. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a complaint in Fresno County Superior Court seeking records from the Fresno Police Department (FPD) about its use of attack dogs.

According to the complaint, “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. From slave catchers in the antebellum South to police officers responding to Black Lives Matter protests, state officials have consistently weaponized canines to terrorize, harass and injure people of color.”

The ACLU filed a California Public Records Act request seeking information about how police dogs are used by the FPD.

The complaint continues, “Moreover, police canines are a powerful, deadly tool. Police attack dogs exert 800–1,500 pounds of pressure per square inch when they bite—force the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals likened to having a limb run over by an automobile.

“A single bite from a police attack dog can cause deep flesh wounds and extensive tissue lacerations, sometimes resulting in exposed muscle, tendon and bone. These wounds leave bite victims vulnerable to serious bacterial infections, life-threatening blood vessel damage and permanent nerve damage, including loss of sensation, loss of mobility and chronic pain.”

The Community Alliance ran a story in February of this year about Isabel De La Torre, who was having a mental health crisis. Instead of offering assistance, police officers attacked her with a police dog. De La Torre was killed in that attack.

The ACLU is working with “its community partners (that) have been alarmed by disfiguring injuries and deaths caused by police canine attacks. Over the last two years in California, police dogs were responsible for seriously injuring more people than batons or tasers.

“In 2021, injuries caused by police canines accounted for nearly 12% of police use of force cases that resulted in severe injury or death. Notably, many of these attacks are perpetrated against people who are unarmed, and many of them occur accidentally when police officers lose control of their dogs.

“Fresno is no stranger to such tragic accidents. Fresno has been involved in several accidental police canine attacks, including attacks on an innocent bystander, a child and even the accidental bite of a police sergeant.

“Injuries caused by police canines disproportionately affect communities of color. In 2021, Black and Latino people accounted for about two-thirds of Californians seriously injured or killed by police canines, and Black people were 2.6 times more likely to be seriously injured by police canines than white people.”

The ACLU is attempting to find out more about how attack dogs are used by the FPD. The community has a right to know this information. Contact the ACLU Fresno office at 559-374-2766.


  • Mike Rhodes

    Mike Rhodes is the executive director of the Community Alliance, was the editor of this newspaper from 1998 to 2014 and the author of several books. Contact him at

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