BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — On Tuesday, a spokesman for the Bakersfield Police Department issued a statement regarding an incident where an officer was seen in a photo wearing "blackface."
According to BPD, the department was made aware of a social media post depicting the officer wearing "blackface" makeup several years before the officer's employment with BPD. The department said the photo appeared to be part of the officer's high school yearbook.
On Monday, Chief Greg Terry said the officer was immediately placed on paid administrative leave and Internal Affairs was directed to investigate the matter.
On Tuesday, Sgt. Nathan McCauley said that it was important that the community know that the department takes this issue seriously.
"The chief thought it was important that the department bring this to people's attention. This is something rather than have it spread around through social media and have another narrative it was important to let the community know that we are aware of this and we are investigating this. They understand that they want to make sure all of our officers are of sound moral character and want to make sure that if there's something that needs to be addressed that is of community concern that those concerns are being addressed in every aspect."
McCauley explained that the photo was one of several of the officer that was included in the high school yearbook, but the only one that depicted him in "blackface."
"Again, this is a photograph that was in a high school yearbook. And there are several photographs of that officer in the yearbook and the only one and only one of them is [he] wearing the make-up in there. They will have to conduct a thorough investigation but my understanding now is that he was dressed up as President Obama for Halloween and that was the picture that was taken and it was included by the high school yearbook staff in that yearbook. There were other photos of him that represents himself in other ways and that will all be a component of the investigation to figure out the facts and circumstances."
Still, McCauley reiterated the importance of the Bakersfield Police Department to fully investigate the matter.
"We have the responsibility as an agency to make sure our people are of a good sound moral character and that's why they are going to check into all the information before a determination is made."