BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — “Killing County,” the ABC News Studios and Hulu docu-series is now available to watch online. The series takes a look at police tactics here in Kern.
It not only offers insight from authorities and criminal justice experts but also shows interviews with family members whose loved ones died in an encounter with law enforcement. But why and how was "Killing County?" Many asked how the idea came about and why the focus was on Bakersfield.
BEHIND 'KILLING COUNTY'
“It's been over a year that this project first came about and it was Kaepernick Media who actually came to us," explained Monica de la Rosa, senior series producer on the docu-series. "His interests lie in social justice issues and they had a couple of ideas and they came to us probably over a year ago and said, 'I think you really need to look into this town that’s outside of LA called Bakersfield. There is something very interesting going on there.' And so the idea really germinated from Kaepernick Media.”
De la Rosa says after their discussions with former NFL player and executive producer Colin Kaepernick and his company Kaepernick Media they reviewed the reports and statistics about officer-involved shootings in Bakersfield and wanted to discover more.
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Although the focus of the docu-series is on Bakersfield – De la Rosa says deadly police encounters are a “hot button” issue across the United States which is one of the reasons why this was created.
“This series really is talking about, there is something going on here and we have to keep talking about it. We focused on Bakersfield but it is a conversation that is happening nationwide and it's a way to tell the story through families' eyes but it really is happening around the country. This topic is unfortunately part of a nationwide discussion that doesn't seem to want to go away. Killings by the U.S. police I think reached a record high in 2022. There are media reports saying that fatal police shootings in the U.S. seem to only be increasing sadly.”
REACHING OUT TO THE FAMILIES
De la Rosa added during their research of officer-involved shooting cases in Kern County the initiation of a conversation with the families featured in the series began on her team’s end. She said one of the goals of the docu-series was to take viewers on a journey of showing them the humanity and the impact behind the statistics.
“In our discussions with Kaepernick Media and looking into the stories, we immediately identified the Ramirez family as someone we wanted to talk to and from there it just grew. I do remember my very first call. It was the Ramirez family and I was talking with Nicole and she was just so passionate, so articulate. For them, I really saw the pain that they still felt. The death of her brother happened years ago but it’s almost like for them it was yesterday and that really struck me. That was really moving for me and that’s why we wanted to pursue this story.”
De la Rosa says although the cases highlighted in the docu-series took place nearly a decade ago she says she hopes it allows viewers to continue the conversation of what can be done differently and how what she calls a “nationwide issue” can be taken more seriously.
“Try to really dig deep and peel the layers back of what is going on in our police departments and we hope people will watch for that reason. This has been year after year after year and I really credit the families in this series who were doing this in 2013, 2014 before some of the major reckonings that were happening in the country. They were doing it alone. They would stand on the corner of the police department by themselves.”
LAW ENFORCEMENT PARTICIPATION
“The idea of this series started more than a year ago, so we had a lot of discussions before production actually took place. We kept filming until about the end of July. Then you go into postproduction and delivery until September so the total amount of time of production of this series took about seven or eight months.”
De la Rosa said her team spent several days and weeks filming, doing interviews, and spending time with the families featured in the series.
She added with the discussion at hand being wired around accusations of excessive force by law enforcement in Kern County the production team did want to include the participation of the Bakersfield Police Department and the Kern County Sheriff's Office. But tells me both departments declined participation in the docu-series so her team resorted to featuring public statements from the police chief and the sheriff of Kern County at the time of the cases.
“We were reaching out to them. We had some discussions with them but in the end, they decided not to participate, which was unfortunate. But we did of course speak to former police chiefs. We spoke to former detectives. We spoke to former deputies just so we could get perspective of the police as part of the series as well.”
Another production decision made because of the lack of participation from BPD and KCSO was the choice to use actors to “perform” depositions.
“We wanted to get their voices in this series. There's an archive of the sheriff and the police chief at the time talking about these incidents. We don’t hear from the police officers themselves but what we did have was tons of documentation. When the families filed their lawsuits for the city, it brought up interviews and depositions from these police officers so people could hear the words of the police officers themselves talk about this and we have actors reading those depositions so viewers can ultimately make their own decisions.”
WORKING WITH THE FAMILIES
Although the cases shown in the docu-series happened almost a decade ago De la Rosa says that some of the protests featured in “Killing County” occurred during their filming process in 2022.
“The families themselves in making the series also wanted to get together and also felt like they wanted to continue walking out into the streets. They would stand on the corner of the police department by themselves, and these are not powerful families necessarily, these are not families that wield influence in the city. They were kind of held up during the pandemic, so when the pandemic happened, they were not meeting as often and so this series kind of was a catalyst for them to meet and talk about it and inspired them to go out into the streets and we filmed that.”
If you’d like to watch the docu-series "Killing County" you can download the streaming app Hulu on your smartphone, smart tv, or tablet.