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California Department of Justice investigates practices of BPD and KCSO

"They don’t fall on deaf ears.”
An exterior sign is photographed outside the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice building in Washington
Posted at 4:25 PM, May 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-06 20:35:04-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — The California Department of Justice investigated the practices of both the Bakersfield Police Department and the Kern County Sheriff's Office.

The DOJ issuing stipulated judgments for both in the last couple years and this month, the community will have a chance to weigh in on how the agencies are performing.

For KCSO Community Advisory Council Co-Chair Tiara King, it’s all about creating that bridge between the community and law enforcement to make sure the changes they’re seeking are seen through.

“You are heard, you are seen, and your life does matter. It lets us, as a community, know that when we have a problem, we can go and get those problems dealt with. They don’t fall on deaf ears.”

King is talking about the California Department of Justice listening to community input on law enforcement’s best practices.

The California Department of Justice currently issuing two separate stipulated justice agreements in 2020 and 2021. One, for the Bakersfield Police Department and one, for the Kern County Sheriff’s Office.

That means they’re looking into their practices and creating plans to revise them, but they’re not doing it alone.

“So, we’re not necessarily at a point to say ‘you must do this’. To take complaints from the community and say, ‘this must happen.’ [We’re] making sure that law enforcement is well aware of their shortcomings and that the community is well aware of the steps law enforcement is taking to change those shortcomings.”

Since February of last year, the KCSO monitor, made up of two monitors and seven team members, have been doing that work.

King said their team is guarded by the stipulated judgment; a court ordered outline of what law enforcement needs to implement.

Right now, King said the Bakersfield Monitor is something similar to what the CAC has been doing. The team is holding two community meetings on May 10 and 11.

“Just across the board and all of the different departments. The policies and how they’re executed are what caused all the tension of what we see on the streets. So right now, we’re really deep diving into the policy and making our recommendations.”

This January, KCSO CAC came out with a report on their findings.

It details recommendations for sheriff’s department policies across eight categories including, use of force, stops seizures and searches, responding to and interacting with people with behavioral health disparities or crisis, management, language access and community policing.

For example, they recommend KCSO’s use of force policies prioritize de-escalation techniques that are nonthreatening, like body language, maintaining distance, regulating cadence, obtaining and supplying information, or involving relevant partnering agencies.

King said while they still have a long way to go, she acknowledges that KCSO is already doing the work. As the report details, KCSO has agreed to share draft policies with the monitoring group for them to make recommendations.

“I will say that KCSO has been tremendously open to hearing us, to understanding us. They didn’t come into this and say, ‘our way is the right way’. They came into this with, ‘how can we help you? How can we change things?’”

The KCSO CAC will also have another community meeting May 16.

READ THE FULL REPORT BELOW:

KCSO 1st Annual MT Report Jan 2022 by Anthony Wright on Scribd