BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – Things got a little testy Wednesday afternoon when Sheriff Donny Youngblood held a virtual forum to discuss law enforcement and the African American community.
The sheriff agreed change needs to happen.
“We’ve been here before, we have to move forward,” said Youngblood.
But not in the way some of the panelists proposed.
‘It’s going to take a lot of things to settle our community now, said Isaiah Crompton, a panelist. “But I think a citizens oversight committee will be one of them.”
“We have a lot of oversight and remember we follow the law,” said Sheriff Youngblood. “I am not for a citizens review board.”
Sheriff Youngblood said the department is already “straightforward” with the community.
He added that in the 14 years he’s been sheriff he’s fired or allowed to resign 100 people for misconduct., assuring the panelists he doesn’t permit allow bad behavior.
Youngblood added there was no need for him to repent for bad behavior because he said he didn’t know of any.
“If I were to repent, I would resign right afterward because I would be admitting I was doing something horribly wrong,” said Sheriff Youngblood.
Something that didn’t sit well with some of the panelists.
“Admitting to the wrong starts the conversation,” said Patrick Jackson, panelist.
Arleana Waller, moderator of Wednesday’s meeting, then switched the focus of the meeting to officer diversity.
“What are your practices for diversifying officers?” asked Waller.
“I can tell you that 40+ percent are Hispanic and about 2.7 percent are African American,” said Sheriff Youngblood.
Sheriff Youngblood shared the department has a hard time hiring African Americans.
“Part of that is our fault and part of that is your fault,” said Sheriff Youngblood. “Some of you tell your children being a cop is bad.”
A response that also didn’t sit well wtih the panelists
“That fear that little black boys have of cops doesn’t come from us,” said Waller. “We’re trying to have a conversation here and mend it. But that doesn’t come from us. That comes from leadership.”
The meeting ended with Sheriff Youngblood asking the panelists for help in educating the young people in his department.
“I need people like you throughout the community to come in and address the officers to tell them how you feel,” said Sheriff Youngblood.
One of the agreements made at the meeting was that the department was going to look into bringing together an advisory committee.