In the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Garden beside Gainesville City Hall, community organizers voiced their disapproval of the Gainesville Police Department’s announced return of its K-9 unit after a monthlong hiatus.
Nearly a year and a half since one of its K-9s tore out Terrell Bradley’s eye during a traffic stop, GPD stated it will expand the unit in a Feb. 17 press release.
On Thursday, a group of eight activists calling themselves the Coalition to End GPD’s Paw Patrol, called for the Gainesville City Commission to suspend the employment of new K-9 officers until community concerns are addressed.
Activist Danielle Chanzes is worried GPD Chief Lonnie Scott is not adequately paying attention to public sentiment, she said.
“Our residents are scared — rightfully so — of the violence that can be inflicted upon them by these vicious K-9s,” Chanzes said. “Lonnie Scott has proven to the community that the only thing he’s interested in is backing the blue — protecting that thin blue line — and not protecting our community.”
But this isn’t an issue unique to Gainesville, as K-9s are disproportionately used against communities of color around the country, Chanzes said.
The overuse of K-9s traces back to the bloodhounds used to track down Black Americans fleeing enslavement, said Remedy Ryan, 24, with the UF Black Law Student Association and UF Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.
“Dogs have been used to enforce racial terror for generations,” Ryan said, referencing The Marshall Project’s investigation into how K-9s can be trained to disproportionately attack Black people.
GPD spokesperson David Chudzik didn’t respond to requests for comment on specific policy surrounding the coalition’s demands as of Wednesday afternoon.
Chudzik has previously stated the importance of the K-9 unit in locating evidence, missing people and catching suspects at crime scenes.
“We just think they’re such an important and vital part of how we fight crime in this city,” he said.
Organizer Chanae Jackson understands there’s much room for disagreement, she said, but for there to be peace, GPD needs to at least consider community input.
“For the K-9 unit in Gainesville, there is no future,” Jackson said. “It’s an outdated department with outdated policies, and we already know those policies are racist on their face.”
The Coalition to End GPD’s Paw Patrol continues its public outreach and will host a community meeting March 9 to educate on GPD’s K-9 unit.
Contact Jack at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JackLemnus.
Jack Lemnus is a fourth-year journalism major and rural Alachua reporter. He loves to practice his Spanish, fill his bookshelves and gatekeep what he considers underground music.