This weekend, the L.A. Times inflamed racial tensions in Los Angeles for the umpteenth time, with a story titled Canine Detail a Pocket of Concern.
The lead sentence reads:
A report has found that 83% of suspects bitten by sheriffs dogs in Los Angeles County were minorities, and recommended that Sheriff Lee Bacas crime-fighting strategies be rigorously rethought.
I do know this: the story does not set forth a single scrap of information to answer questions such as the following:
- Under what circumstances are dogs typically deployed by police?
- What percentage of those situations involve non-white suspects?
- Is there certain behavior by a criminal suspect that might cause a dog to bite the suspect?
- What percentage of suspects who engage in that sort of behavior are non-white?
- Which sheriffs stations use dogs, and where are those stations located?
It would presumably be easy for a large metropolitan newspaper such as the L.A. Times to answer such questions, since there are only a small number of dog bites by sheriffs dogs each year. According to the article, the sheriffs department has only 10 dogs. Only 30 suspects were bitten by these dogs in 2003, and only 15 in 1999.
Without an answer to questions like these, a story like this does nothing but inflame racial tensions. Not that we worry about such things here in Los Angeles.
But inflaming racial tensions is one of the things the Times does best.