An Oregon Police Department has renamed one of its K-9 officers following criticism from the leader of a local Black activist group.
The K-9, who was referred to as “Lil’ Kim,” garnered objections that the name was insensitive, given it shared the stage name of Black Grammy-winning rapper Lil’ Kim, whose real name is Kimberly Denise Jones.
The critic also highlighted the history behind dogs being used against Black people, the Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
Riccardo Waites, the founder of the Central Oregon Black Leaders Assembly activist group, revealed that he spoke with Bend, Oregon, Police Chief Mike Krantz on Thursday, March 25, to express concern over the dog’s name.
“It’s a little tiny black dog, K-9 dog, that the police call ‘Lil’ Kim.’ If you’re a person of color, or if you’re a fan of Lil’ Kim, you know her significance in hip-hop. You also know that she’s a gangster rapper,” he explained. “Just to be honest, I don’t want to see Lil’ Kim out there biting people of color.” The Census Bureau reports African-Americans comprise 0.6 percent of the central Oregon mountain town’s population.
Krantz maintained that naming the canine “Lil” was about the dog’s size. “We addressed it previously, internally, and the dog’s name is Kim.” Krantz joined the Bend force after moving from the Portland Police Bureau last year. However, the K-9 Kim had been with the department for roughly four or five years.
Waites told the outlet that his initial conversation with Krantz stalled over the chief’s denial of purposely naming the dog after the “Crush on You” rapper. “Why are you justifying why the dog is called Lil’ Kim, instead of accepting that it’s hurting people in the community?” Waites said he told Krantz.
In an email sent to the chief officer on March 15, Waites explained why the renaming was essential to Black people. “While it may appear a small or inconsequential matter to some, it is not to those of us who remember how police dogs were used against peacefully protesting civil rights workers and People of Color in the 1960s and are still used as a means of crowd control and intimidation today,” he wrote.
While speaking to OPB over the weekend, Krantz said, “Although the dog is not named after a musician, it’s important to recognize that some people may assume that or believe that.” He added, “I think in the eyes of some community members there is a connection historically to the use of dogs, specifically on protestors and Black community members, and that, that could bring a fear of canines.”
Krantz also denied that outside pressures encouraged his decision to change the dog’s name.