On the heels of a deadly officer-involved shooting, the Bakersfield Police Department invited the community to an open forum at Compassion Christian Center.
The goal was to improve the relationship between the community and local police, especially among a crowd that was largely people of color.
Tempers flared as hot-button questions were thrown out. One woman asked, why do police profile? Another wondered, why don’t officers target arms and legs when they open fire?
This was all as the family of the man killed by a BPD-involved shooting listened in.
“The only way the relationship can be improved is coming to the table and being transparent. And as we saw, often times that’s kind of difficult–it does get heated,” said Marisa Banks, a pastor at Compassion Christian Center. “But if we can work through the heated moment to get to a resolve, that’s what we’re working toward.”
Bakersfield Police Chief Lyle Martin said the event was about giving the community a voice.
“We need the community to get engaged. We can’t just sit at home and complain. So they can come, get correct information, and give it to the community,” Martin.
“This is obviously something that’s not going to change overnight, but nonetheless, there is the need for the community to come out and to speak what these interests and these concerns that they have,” said Octavio Barajas, who attended the forum.
Several people also expressed concerns about how officers are trained. There was largely a call for more education on implicit bias and cultural awareness. Chief martin addressed how BPD hopes to improve its community service.
“Officers are going to have to be trained in a different manner to the end that everyone is treated with human decency,” Banks said.
To the families who’ve lost loved ones in officer-involved shootings, Martin said, “our role is to tell them these are the things we’re putting in place to make ourselves a better police department.”
There have been seven officer-involved shootings in Kern County so far in 2018. Three of those involved the BPD.