In June 2019, Charles Carey, 17, was riding his bike through north Baton Rouge, Louisiana when a nearby police cruiser flipped on its lights. Having thought that police wanted him off the road due to a lack of license plates, Carey sped away, and the officers gave chase. He hit a stump and went flying off his bike, busting open his chin. After getting up and running, Carey hid under a house until officers set a dog loose to go after him. The dog bit Carey’s foot and knee and dragged him screaming out from under the house. According to police body cameras, the 17-year-old was screaming “My leg!” as officers took him in for questioning.
According to records reviewed by the nonprofit criminal justice organization The Marshall Project, between 2017 and 2019, Baton Rouge police dogs bit at least 146 people. Fifty-three of those people were 17-years old or younger. A majority of the dog-bite victims were Black, most of them unarmed, and suspected by police of nonviolent crimes such as driving a stolen vehicle or burglary. The Baton Rouge Police Department used dogs to harmful effect, especially against teenagers, more often than any other police department in the country, according to the Marshall Project. On average, a Baton Rouge police dog will bite a teenager once every three weeks. In a joint investigation The Marshall Project and The Advocate found that the BRPD had “the second highest per-capita rate of dogs biting suspects of the cities examined. Only the police department in Auburn, Washington, a much smaller city, had a higher rate.”
Juveniles were much more likely to be bitten in Baton Rouge than in an any of the 12 other cities studied by The Marshall Project and The Advocate, as well as any other cities for which reporters could obtain the age of the victims. Because some of the dog-bite victims were underage, East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office refused to provide information about these specific cases.
Controversies surfaced when it was found that these minors were attacked due to nonviolent crimes. According to The Marshall Project, “All but two of the 53 minors attacked by a BRPD police dog during those three years were Black. So, too, were more than 90 percent of the adults bitten, even though Black residents make up just over half of the city’s population. And in every instance, according to BRPD’s records, the officer handling the police dog was White.”
Local attorneys and a former juvenile judge in Baton Rouge said they routinely see children come into court with serious injuries from police dogs, and almost all of these arrests are for low-level charges. Madalyn Wasilczuk, director of Louisiana State University’s Juvenile Defense Clinic, said that the dog attacks “are done without regard for whether the child presents a danger to the police or the community.”
These on-going police dog attacks have received zero coverage from corporate media sites such as Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, or CNN, as of June 2019 (the date in which Carey’s incident occurred) and on. There has been some limited coverage by local Baton Rouge news stations such as WBRZ.
Source: Bryn Stole and Grace Tooney, “The City Where Police Unleash Dogs on Black Teens,” The Marshall Project, February 12, 2021, https://www.themarshallproject.org/2021/02/12/the-city-where-police-unleash-dogs-on-black-teens.
Student Researcher: Jason Medrano (North Central College)
Faculty Evaluator: Steve Macek (North Central College)