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Jaysharee Bennette, 27, was suspected of driving a car with a stolen tag. Broward Sheriff’s K-9 Deputy Edward Earnest spotted the tan Cadillac DeVille at a Pompano Beach gas station in January 2020, and tried to arrest Bennette and her two passengers. Bennette ran. Earnest followed, tracking her with his K-9 Roscoe and shouting for her to stop running. As Bennette tried to hop a fence, Earnest unleashed Roscoe. The K-9 clamped down on Bennette’s thigh. Once in handcuffs, she was charged with auto theft, resisting arrest, and operating a vehicle with an expired license. Prosecutors dropped the main charge of stealing the car.
Illustrations for ProPublica’s Weepeople font by Alberto Cairo.
The Sun Sentinel reviewed K-9 records from the Broward Sheriff’s Office and the county’s five largest police departments: Coral Springs, Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Miramar and Pembroke Pines. Reporters examined thousands of pages of police K-9 reports and court documents, hours of body camera footage and scores of bite wound photos.
Each agency noted that it met the industry norms for using police dogs: The number of people bitten was far less than 30 percent of the total cases in which dogs were used.
But the Sun Sentinel found that each agency also displayed a similar pattern of racial disparity, chasing and biting Black people in numbers out of proportion to their share of population or arrests. In 73% of the cases in which dogs hunted suspects, the suspects were Black, fueling the disproportionate bite rate among Black people.
The dogs are indispensable for finding and capturing dangerous criminals. Yet two-thirds of the people bitten were accused of nonviolent crimes. The typical K-9 case: a young Black man driving a stolen car or accused of stealing from a parked one.
Anthony Rattray, 19, was accused of stealing from unlocked cars in a Coral Springs neighborhood. Coral Springs police used a dog and a drone to find him hiding in a trash can. Officer Scott Clark said he shouted a warning and knocked the can over. He said the 19-year-old hesitated to emerge and could have been armed, so he ordered his K-9 to bite. The dog ripped a four-inch chunk out of Rattray’s upper arm, hospitalizing him for two days.