BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — A stipulated judgment between the California Department of Justice, the City of Bakersfield, and BPD last year was the result of an investigation into the police department after serious concerns were raised by the community about some police practices, including use-of-force training and policies.
Members of the community and Bakersfield monitoring team representatives met to talk about concerns with the department.
The four major topics of discussion at Tuesday’s meeting were as follows:
- “Does the Bakersfield Police Department deliver police services in a way that you expect?”
- “What are your expectations for the Bakersfield Police Department?”
- “What can the Bakersfield Police Department do to improve the relationship with the community?
- "What can the monitoring team to keep you informed to make sure your views are represented as we go through this process?”
As part of this process, a range of the community's concerns regarding BPD were identified.
“From excessive force, alternative to incarceration services,” said Andres Zuniga, Community Advocate ‘All of us or none’.
These concerns, plus harassment, unlawful stops and searches, and “The lack of language accessibility and really understand who they are serving.”
A team appointed monitor is responsible for making sure the City and the Bakersfield Police Department is in compliance with the requirements within the five-year stipulated judgement, including engaging in actions to protect individual statutory and constitutional rights, promote public safety, and treat individuals with dignity and respect.
“What we’ve found so far is that the department is amenable in implementing the reforms it agreed to and we are able to bring that experience to as an independent third party provide recommendations, technical assistance, or even looking at what are some of the issues raised by the community and making sure the metrics under the agreement are met,” said Debra Kirby, Appointed Monitor for City of Bakersfield.
They also have the ability to advocate on behalf of the community.
“Regularly our employees are at risk of danger from outside issues, and we don't get the support that we need and that is the answers that we are given.”
Zuniga said he is grateful that community members' voices are being heard.
“We have to start somewhere since it’s going to be a long process here in Bakersfield, since we’ve been experiencing these injustices for so many decades."
Other community advocates like Reyna Rodriguez said she believes the monitoring team can help initiate change.
“There can be a change, but it has to be a desired change from both sides, not one side. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have the community voluntarily coming here for a two-hour session to talk about these issues.”
Kirby said during this first year of the judgement, the team will focus on use of force.
The judgement ends upon compliance with the requirements which is determined to be met by the Bakersfield monitor team.
The team will continue to conduct audits, assessments, and listen to community members opinions, ideas and goals.