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City Council approves police body cameras and more downtown parking

A number of hot button issues were addressed Wednesday in Bakersfield

Bakersfield, Calif. - It was a busy night for the Bakersfield City Council, who faced a laundry list of hot button issues.

For nearly three hours, council members worked through public comment and presentations to come up with a number of unanimous decisions - many of which may affect you. 

Right off the bat, the council approved the pilot project that will equip Bakersfield Police officers with body cameras.

Bakersfield Police Chief Lyle Martin was very happy with the decision to move forward with the body cameras. "This is just one of the pieces to my goals as Chief," he said. "To create a culture of accountability within the Bakersfield Police Department."

It's a one-year trial period during which 14 officers and two sergeants with the BPD's gang unit will wear body cams. 

"I believe as our Police Chief that 99 percent of the time, our officers are doing exactly what I expect them to do and what the public expects them to do and these cameras will give us confirmation of that," Martin said. 

The pilot project will launch July 1 and will cost the city $18,000.

Also on Wednesday's agenda: Issues concerning downtown parking. 

Council member Andrae Gonzales said of downtown parking, "We received recommendations from our consultants so that we can take both short-term and long-term steps to really maximize the efficiency of the existing parking." 

The council agreed to move forward with recommendations like maximizing the use of the downtown parking structure on 18th and Eye Streets by making it more accessible and more user-friendly. Efforts will also include promotion of the garage throughout the downtown area. 

"The parking times on street parking vary widely," Gonzales added. 

To create some uniformity, the council also approved $20,000 to streamline all downtown parking signage to allow only 1 hour, 90 minute, or 2 hour parking, eliminating the 15 minute or half hour parking restrictions.

Councilman Gonzales is also working on a brand new parking mall downtown, that would add some 30 new spaces to the downtown parking capacity. According to Gonzales, it could see completion within a year. 

Finally, the council had to address an issue that has attracted some controversy - the potential renaming of a local park. Members of the Sikh community want Stonecreek Park in southwest Bakersfield renamed for a famous Indian human rights activist, Jaswant Singh Khalra. 

"They definitely deserve to be represented as anybody else does in our community," said Kevyn Tinoco, a concerned community member who spoke during public comment at Wednesday night's meeting. 

But not everyone is on board. 

"I'm not asking a community to give up their park name or their park and give it to somebody else to honor somebody that I don't even know," said Ingrid Henderson, another community member who lives in southwest Bakersfield. 

The council sent the issue of the park's name to a committee for further discussion. 


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