California Attorney General calls out Bakersfield Police, Kern Sheriff for troubling tactics

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On Monday, while announcing reforms to reduce police violence, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra specifically called out the Bakersfield Police Department and Kern County Sheriff’s Office for patterns of troubling behavior.

“It’s public information that the California Department of Justice is undertaking a pattern and practice investigation involving the Kern County Sheriff’s Department and the Bakersfield Police Department,” Becerra said. “We find troubling evidence that the way that the agency is conducting its business may fly in the face of constitutional statutory protections against police overuse of tactics and policies, that would impact the rights of individuals who confront law enforcement.”

However, Sheriff Donny Youngblood doesn’t necessarily see that.

“We’ve received nothing from the Department of Justice on the investigation in almost three years,” Youngblood said. “We asked the Department of Justice to tell us along the way if they were seeing things that we need to change so that we can look at them. We’ve gotten no direction.”

In 2015, one study found that BPD and KCSO had the highest kill rate in America, fatally shooting the most people per capita.

From the start of 2015 until today, there have been 73 officer-involved shootings in Kern County.

There have been seven alone in 2020.

“First of all, to answer your question, we don’t use violence,” Youngblood said. “Use of force is covered under the law, and excessive force is dealt with very harshly in this department.”

Now, Attorney General Becerra is looking to the 8 Can’t Wait campaign for police reform.

Becerra listed some of the guidelines: “require police officers to intervene to stop excessive or unnecessary force by another officer, to ban chokeholds, to require verbal warning when feasible before using lethal or less-lethal force, to prohibit shooting at or from a moving vehicle, to require that deadly force be used only as a last resort.”

“I don’t have any major issues with pretty much the attorney general has said, with the exception of banning chokeholds, which never existed,” Youngblood said in response. “We are already following very diligently the 8 Can’t Wait, almost to a T.”

Becerra said many of these police reform guidelines will become law by january of 2021. Others will remain recommendations.

We reached out to Bakersfield Police, who confirmed the attorney general’s investigation into their department was announced in December of 2016.

However, BPD made no further comment.

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