Bend police acknowledge canine title change after criticism from civil rights group

For years Bend police officers have referred to a canine officer as “Lil ‘Kim”.

Now that the 2020 Racial Justice protests have put police under pressure for their culture and tactics, Bend’s top cop denies his department ever intended to use the name of a famous black musician for his police dog.

Chef Mike Krantz said the dog, a Belgian Malinois Sheepdog who has been repeatedly identified as Lil ‘Kim in official departmental statements over the years, was not styled after the rapper and icon Kimberley Jones, a multi-Grammy-winning black Woman who was under her stage name Lil ‘Kim has sold more than 15 million albums worldwide.

The message about the dog’s name change comes at the request of a civil rights group. Krantz denies that those appeals caused him to notify officials of a name change.

“We have already raised it internally, and the dog is called Kim,” said Krantz. The chief called “Lil ‘Kim” the “nickname” of the dog, which he said stems from its petite size compared to other K-9s with strength.

As recently as last month, media in Central Oregon reported that Lil ‘Kim bit a suspect while trying to escape the Bend police. A week later, on February 28, officials called Lil ‘Kim and her handler to help arrest a domestic violence suspect, according to a police press release.

This month, a black racial justice attorney urged police to stop using the rapper’s name on their dog. Riccardo Waites said his email conversation with the boss initially stalled because of Krantz and denied any intentional connection.

“Why do you justify why the dog is called Lil ‘Kim instead of accepting that he is hurting people in the community?” said Waites, the founder of the Central Oregon Black Leaders Assembly.

One of COBLA’s goals as a nonprofit organization is to build trust between members of the black community and law enforcement agencies, Waites said. On March 15, he sent Krantz an email explaining who the real Lil ‘Kim is and why it is insensitive for a police dog to share that name.

“While it may be a small or trivial matter to some, it is not for those of us who remember how police dogs were used against peacefully protesting civil rights activists and people of color in the 1960s and are still used as a means of control Crowd used and intimidation today, ”wrote Waites.

Police dogs have long been used as a tool to scare black people in America. Images of growling German Shepherds being led by white police officers have become some of the most famous photographs of 1960s civil rights protests in the south.

This week Waites and Krantz met to discuss the subject. Waites then sent a statement to the media commending the police chief for agreeing to change the dog’s name and calling it “a small but critical gesture of good faith”.

But an hour later the police chief replied, “I did not verify this information before it was sent. … Please do not use this information as fact, ”Krantz wrote.

Krantz moved to Bend from the Portland Police Bureau last year. Kim, the dog officer, has been in the department for four or five years, the boss said. He told OPB that the meeting with Waites went well, but, “I just wanted to make sure the information about the dog was really clear, about the dog’s entire history.”

At times since moving to Bend, Krantz had a turbulent relationship with local social justice groups and was criticized for his handling of protests and political demonstrations.

Waites said the original name was insensitive regardless of intent and the change should have been publicly acknowledged by the department.

“What makes it even less sensitive is that [the police chief] I never acknowledged that it could hurt people, that it would be offensive to some people in the community, ”Waites said.

Waites’ group, COBLA, has met with numerous representatives from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies over the past few months, he said.

“Not all of these conversations went smoothly. … But as far as the offers from COBLA are concerned, every agency except Bend has accepted PD, ”said Waites.

Even so, he does not write off the work with Krantz or the goal of building trust with the Bend police officers. He said he was concerned about what might happen in response to the trial of Derek Chauvin, a white cop who knelt on George Floyd’s neck and resulted in the black’s death last May. On Monday, Chauvin will face a jury for murder.

“We need to find a way to achieve this unity and communication between the community and Bend PD because the Chauvin case is coming,” Waites said. “This is our chief of police. We want him to empathize with us. We want him to take care of us. And if he did, that little change would have come a long way in my opinion. ”

On Friday, OPB asked Krantz if naming a police dog after Lil ‘Kim, the rapper, was problematic.

“Although the dog is not named after a musician, it’s important to realize that some people assume or believe that,” Krantz said. “I think some community members have historically seen a link with dog use, especially by protesters and black community members, and that could create fear of dogs.”

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