Ending excessive force: A call for real change following the attack of Jadarrius Rose
In Circleville, Ohio on July 4, 2023, Jadarrius Rose was severely injured after a police officer loosed a K9 on him despite repeated warnings not to release the dog. Rose called 911 and told the dispatcher that he feared for his life during the police chase that began after he did not stop for a vehicle inspection. According to the state trooper at the scene, Rose was in full compliance when the dog was set upon him.
Footage from the attack was released this week, which prompted Governor DeWine to call for more police training and training centers, suggesting that this incident resulted from small police departments being underfunded and undertrained. Setting aside the audacity it takes to suggest someone needs training to know that attacking an unarmed, compliant person is wrong, the suggested solution of increased funding ignores the uniquely racialized and violent history of police dogs being used to subjugate Black and indigenous people. Understanding the history is necessary to understand the outrage, and to create policy and regulation to end the practice.
From the 16th Century through the Antebellum era, dogs known as “bloodhounds” were used to terrorize and control Black and indigenous people seeking to escape the horrors of slavery. Abolitionists of the time even prioritized spotlighting attack dogs as an example of barbaric practices American slavery produced and perpetuated.
The use of dogs was common among both enslavers and their patrols – America's first police forces. Post-Civil War, dogs remained a heavily sought after utility to enforce the state-sanctioned power, intimidation and violence necessary to uphold segregation, as well as other structural barriers. Dog attacks have played a key role in the evolution of the carceral state, from convict leasing and Jim Crow to WWII military force, the Civil Rights Movement, the war on drugs and protests. Black Americans and other communities of color are targeted, despite the collective outrage from impacted communities.
In 2020, The Marshall Project found that dog attacks were the leading use of police force, requiring more hospital visits than any other tactic. Victims were predominantly Black, and many were unarmed, accused of non-violent crimes or weren't suspects at all. The Marshall Project has also reported on possible anti-Black conditioning of the K9s.
Victims of these attacks face difficulties when seeking justice and compensation. The handler rarely faces any accountability for their actions and data are rarely tracked. Before the video of the July 4 attack on Rose was released, the same old script was already running. The responsible officer was placed on paid leave while a thorough investigation was conducted. He has now been fired, but the Ohio Patrolman's Benevolent Association filed an official grievance stating he was terminated "without just cause." The governor and powers that be call for more state funding for police training and more money for more training centers – all of these “solutions” lack any acknowledgement of race, history or responsibility. They are individual solutions to a systemic problem.
How can training address the excessive use of force without acknowledging racial bias that is embedded in existing training programs or without examining the militarization of police departments and how this contradicts their modern charge – to protect and serve all?
At Policy Matters Ohio, embracing a GRACE (gender, race, ability, class, equity) framework means working with our neighbors who are harmed by existing policies due to their gender, race, ability or class to make Ohio a state that works for all of us – no exceptions. As a research institute, we value understanding history and the data about what kinds of public policy can make communities safe for all Ohioans. To that worthy aim, we must acknowledge what causes harm and the policy choices that drive that harm disproportionately towards Black Ohioans.
The vicious attack Jadarrius Rose endured resulted from a fear-driven response to a traffic stop because his identity reflects communities of people who have long borne the brunt of the excessive use of force and cruel stereotypes of being “dangerous or violent.” The unwarranted and excessive force used against Rose is so entrenched in anti-Black racism, it’s difficult to imagine training “fixing” the response. Instead of replaying promises of reform, leaders should engage in a complex dialogue with over-policed communities and invest in strategies, policies and resources that are holistic, evidence-based and community-driven, rather than violent and lethal. Such a dialogue would encourage a different and more complex understanding of what our communities need. It would also get the state closer to true accountability.
Ohioans need to hold state legislators accountable for funding community-centered programs, rather than the punitive, harmful, excessive and deadly practices that have failed to make the state safer.