For officers, the highly trained dogs are essential tools. But Donald Cook, an attorney who has spent much of his 20-year career suing police agencies over use-of-force issues, believes the use of police dogs to catch, and often bite, suspects constitutes excessive force. “Cops can get away with doing to people with dogs what they themselves can’t do,” he said. Higashi said Montebello’s police dogs are trained to bark unless they are provoked. Only then then will they bite. “If a suspect is laying still, the dog is trained to go up to the person and bark,” said Higashi. “If the person moves, hits or kicks, then the dog will react.” Cook said police dogs should never be used to bite suspects. “The truth is that it’s not needed to put a dog on somebody – it’s barbarism,” he said. But he admits that he has lost more cases involving police dog bites than he has won, partly because jurors are unsympathetic to his clients, who often have criminal backgrounds. Higashi defended the use of dogs, saying they often can sniff out suspects or contraband that officers can’t see. Police dogs also can hold suspects until officer can hold and handcuff them. Still, Cook said, he will continue to work to change the way agencies use police dogs. “Use the dogs to find people – fine, go ahead,” said Cook. “Just don’t let the dogs bite.” [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3026160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! MONTEBELLO – Montebello police K9 Unit Commander Lt. Mike Higashi got the call at 1 a.m.: A police dog had just bitten a suspect. Along with Sgt. Randy Jaso, Higashi is responsible for investigating all cases involving officers’ use of force, including the use of police dogs. The call that pulled Higashi out of bed remains under investigation, but Higashi said it began when an officer working night duty saw two men run into a field near Beverly Boulevard. The officer heard a gunshot coming from their direction and called for backup officers, a K9 team, and a helicopter, said Higashi. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2Officers contained an area around the field, and searched for the men using flashlights, helicopter searchlights and loudspeaker announcements. In the dense brush on the field, the men were hidden from view. But the police dog was able to smell them. “The dog found a scent and kicked his head up high to notify the handler,” said Higashi. Police called out and one man stood up and surrendered. A few minutes later, the police dog found a second suspect and bit the man, who was armed with a gun and was hiding near a house, said Higashi.