Dog bites and racism in Indianapolis

Gordon Mitchum Sr., 78, of Indianapolis, a retired mail handler of 43 years, pulls up his left pant leg to show the scars left by an Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department dog bite, at his home on Monday, July 6, 2020.

October 24, 2020 Stephen Millies

Every five days, a police dog bites someone in Indianapolis. Just as Black people are twice as likely to be unemployed, 55 percent of those bitten in Indianapolis are African American. That’s double their percentage of the city’s population.

These and other facts were revealed in a remarkable investigation by the Marshall Project, named for the human rights attorney and first Black U.S. Supreme Court justice, Thurgood Marshall.

Indianapolis K-9 Officer Molly Groce told tens of thousands of followers on Instagram that for her dog, “The bite itself is the reward.” In 2018, Groce’s dog bit Gordon Mitchum Sr. so severely that the Black retired postal worker’s foot had to be in a cast for two months.

Mr. Mitchum spent 43 years helping people get their prescription medicines and other mail. He was resting on his porch when Groce and her dog entered the yard without a warrant through a side gate.

Police claimed they were looking for a carjacking suspect. They viciously attacked a man in his seventies.

Their K-9 dog first attacked Mitchum’s left leg, then dragged him from the porch before biting his right foot. His daughter had to use bleach and water to hose the blood away from the family’s patio and flowers.

Between 2017 and 2019, some 243 people were bitten by the K-9s of the Indianapolis Metro Police Department. Of the 11 people younger than 16 years old who were bit, nine were Black. 

In 2015, an IMPD police dog veered away from a chase and suddenly attacked a woman who was seven months pregnant. She had to have several surgeries and went into labor early. 

A remnant of slavery and fascism

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