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Withrow Fights State Bid To Eliminate K9s
Sheriff’s Department
SO K9 4-5
San Joaquin County Sheriff Pat Withrow is going to bat for K9 officers, noting their importance in police work. Here, K9 Rango, who is cross-trained in apprehension and narcotics detection, is shown after alerting to narcotics during a traffic stop in the Ripon area, which led to suspected fentanyl pills being confiscated. Sheriff’s Department Facebook Photo


Special To The Times

San Joaquin County Sheriff Pat Withrow wants to do everything in his power to make sure that his deputies have all the tools necessary to do their job safely and effectively.

And that, Withrow said, includes the use of K9 partners.

Sheriff Withrow – who ran unopposed in 2022 and will serve county residents for six years thanks to a push to realign the state’s elections to create uniformity – used a portion of his recent monthly video address to constituents to lobby against a bill he says is currently headed to the floor for a vote.

Assembly Bill 742, Withrow said, would effectively eliminate the use of K9 units in law enforcement for apprehension, and will soon be voted on by the California Assembly.

“It was written by people who have no idea what the policies are for K9s or how we use them nowadays,” Withrow said. “It’s just a way, it looks like to me, for them to get some type of news time or publicity – it would be devastating to our law enforcement community and our public if we lost that tool to safely take people into custody.”

Withrow’s remarks came after thanking the community for its outpouring of support over the death of K9 “Duke” – who was stabbed earlier this year while attempting to apprehend a burglary suspect near a railyard in Tracy. Law enforcement personnel from throughout the area, the state, and even the country offered their condolences, Withrow said, and supported the agency through that dark chapter.

While Withrow didn’t draw any comparisons between the bill and the line-of-duty death of Duke, he did spell out how the use of trained K9 units during apprehensions actually improves the outcome of the suspects and the officers both – something he said is being lost in the push to take away tools that officers use in the line of duty every day.

“It’s safer for people being apprehended, and it’s safer for the officers,” Withrow said. “If we continue to remove these tools that are less than lethal – that they keep doing with these laws – then it’s leaving us with very little choice when we apprehend people.

“It’s doing the exact opposite of what they want to do.”

In a timely – yet unscheduled – illustration of Withrow’s point, K9 officer Rango was recently involved in a major arrest.

In a post on the Sheriff’s Department Facebook page, officials reported that on Wednesday, March 29, around 2 p.m., deputies stopped a silver BMW in the area of Jack Tone and River Roads in Ripon for not having a front license plate.

“K9 Rango, who is cross-trained in apprehension and narcotics detection, alerted to the odor of narcotics,” the Facebook post said. “A search of the vehicle located approximately 80,000 blue “M30” pills suspected to be fentanyl.”

Authorities added that the driver, who was the only one in the vehicle, was arrested and booked on multiple narcotics-related felonies. He was identified as Alejandro Leon Rodriguez, 37, of Oakland.

“With proposed Assembly Bill 742 attempting to limit the use of law enforcement K9’s, this is a perfect example of how dual-purpose K9’s benefit both law enforcement and public safety,” the post concluded.

Assembly Bill 742 was approved 6-2 by the California Assembly Public Safety Committee and goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for further consideration.