BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Ballot Measure L would change Bakersfield's City Charter to allow candidates for police chief and fire chief to be appointed from outside departments.
At this point in time, the “yes” votes stand at 50.03 percent of the votes, while “no” votes stand at 49.97 percent of the votes. It's a difference of fewer than 20 votes. Despite all precincts reporting, this measure can still go either way, pending verification.
“What Measure L means, it's about public safety, and so if it does pass, it allows our city council to seek candidates outside of Kern County," said Bakersfield Police Department (BPD) Community Collaborative NaTesha Johnson. "And if it doesn’t remain just within the department.”
The California Department of Justice entered into an agreement with the Bakersfield Police Department over policing practices last year. As part of the agreement, Measure L was placed on the ballot. Johnson, who served on the BPD Community Collaborative supports the measure and says it will bring needed change to law enforcement agencies.
“I actually served as the Chair of the Bakersfield Police Department Community Collaborative where we produced our recommendations and this was one of the recommendations of really having an equity diversified lens in our hiring practices.”
Measure L asks voters “Shall the Bakersfield City Charter be amended to remove all requirements that the Fire Chief and Police Chief be appointed from within their respective Departments?”
Johnson adds if this measure passes, it would allow for more diversity within the hiring pool.
“It will now allow city council to be more transparent in the hiring and selection process. We know that it's been trending that we need more minorities, people of color, women of color, women in law enforcement, apart of the fire department and so by doing this, it allows an open transparency of the hiring process and so we’re hoping the right candidate is selected.”
However, some opponents of the measure say not having leaders who have substantial experience in the community will be a downgrade. Johnson says it all boils down to the city leaders that could be in charge of choosing future chiefs.
“If we have confidence in those that we elect to sit in those positions, we need to make sure that we are supporting that and making sure that they have the internal bandwidth to select the best candidate for that position.”
She also says that new leaders could be transformative, but either way, if she is able to join the BPD Community Task Force, it's about holding leaders' feet to the fire.
“We’re going to hold everyone accountable. Everybody is going to be held accountable. It's just more of an open process.”
23ABC reached out to BPD and other city officials about the measure but were told they could not comment. As reported, Measure L was initially inadvertently left out of the voter information guide. Despite this, there was only an 18-vote difference between the final outcome.