BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — The Community Advisory Council and the Kern County Sheriff's Office have been working hard to pinpoint downfalls in the department and make changes. Council Chair Arleana Waller says though that these changes will take time and effort from the entire community.
It’s been just under a year since the Kern County Sheriff’s Office announced the creation of a community council focused on addressing issues within the department and the community. The council has been meeting every month since May to discuss policy reforms and how to improve community relationships.
“Both sides are committed,” Waller said. “Another surprise for me through this process is they wanted it, but maybe not knew how to get it,”
Waller said one of their main focuses this year was increasing transparency from the department and including the community more in the investigation process. KCSO this year increasing the number of released body-camera videos from critical incidents on their social media and YouTube pages compared to previous years.
Sheriff Donny Youngblood telling 23ABC in June that the increase in communication and transparency will continue to be a priority moving forward.
“We’ve learned some things along the way, some of our community we didn’t have the relationship we thought we had and we need to do a better job of that,” he said. “We weren’t reaching all of our community so we’re working on some things that will make us a better organization and make our community better."
The council is also looking at ways to improve diversity within the department. A diversity and inclusion report presented to the council in June showing that as of April, about a third of KCSO employees were female. Out of those, only around 41 were deputies.
As far as race — as of April a majority of employees were White or Hispanic, with other races making up less than 10%.
“Another thing we have discovered that we want to make a priority is the hours the sheriffs are working," Waller said. "They are so underfunded, that the sheriffs are working overtime, and it is not humanly possible to do a good job working those kinds of hours. You cannot have a sheriff working 16 plus hours and not make mistakes.”
Waller says the council is working hard to bring changes to budgeting issues, training, and community policing within the department. But in order to be efficient and long-lasting, these changes will take time.
She says right now, what they need is for the community to take part in this process and learn how this change is being brought about.
The Community Advisory Council meeting is scheduled for Monday at 3 p.m. via Zoom. It's open to the public and you can email firstname.lastname@example.org for a link.