In August 2021, the Bakersfield Police Department and the California Department of Justice came to an agreement together with ways to help strengthen BPD's relationship with the community.
It started in 2016 after an investigation into BPD’s misconduct complaints and use of force, found that the department needed to make some changes. And even though BPD does deny the allegations, they are collaborating with the DOJ and working on guidelines put forward as part of the agreement. Along those lines, the Bakersfield Police Department hosted a community workshop to share updates and progress on the process so far.
“it is important to the Bakersfield Police Department that we train our officers to treat people with respect, and to fulfil our responsibilities that help prevent criminal activity in our city,” said Chief Greg Terry with the Bakersfield Police Department.
Chief Terry said the department has been working to train every employee on the basics of the agreement and also pass a knowledge check on it, adding the staff have been working “diligently to honor this agreement.”
One of the stipulations of the agreement was to have an independent monitor. So BPD and DOJ chose the Chicago-based company, Jensen Hughes to do that in late August. The company says they have worked with police reform in other cities and bring that knowledge and expertise to Bakersfield. The role of the firm is to monitor whether BPD is working in alignment with the judgement, and issue public reports based on that.
Along those lines, the monitor and BPD held a community workshop Thursday to share updates and findings. The firm says they have done one site visit, and are working on getting data, records and info to review and help reform.
“The emphasis is on training, best practices, transparency, and improved community engagement,” said Deb Kirby, the monitor with Jensen Hughes. “Those are the underlying thematic of all of the milestones within the judgement.”
These include use of force policies, stops, searches and seizures, accountability, and transparency. The firm said they are working on building a website that should be live by the middle of February. Kirby says a large part of this is making sure the Bakersfield community is actively engaged in the process.
“There is a strong sense of community within Bakersfield, and I think that practices in some regard are sometimes siloed. I think the department is starting to make efforts to further engage as they are through these types of meetings. And I also think there is a commitment to implement reform efforts, said Kirby.
If you want to be involved in the feedback process, the monitoring firm says they want to hear from you. You can participate in listening sessions, visit the website once it’s up and running, engage with the monitor team directly, or even email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.