NewsCovering Kern County


NAACP Bakersfield hosts town hall, talks police reform

Posted at 4:16 PM, Jul 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-14 19:16:11-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Monday night the NAACP of Bakersfield discussed police reform and solutions to the lack of trust the black community has in BPD.

The town hall featured guest speakers Dr. Tommy Tunson, former Arvin police chief and Ron Magsby, former officer, NAACP social justice chair.

The topic on everyone's mind was what policy changes were needed to restore the black population's trust in BPD. While there are many solutions, a few stood out as more important than others.

A solution brought up multiple times during the meeting was the attempt to get both the community and officers in a class about diversity training as well as giving the community the chance to talk candidly with the officers meant to protect them. The focus of this solution is for the community and police department to understand the needs of either party.

"Community voices are powerful," said Dr. Tommy Tunson.

There is also an emphasis on the need for young black people to be recruited into the force, but what's the incentive if there is a lack of trust in the police?

Ron Magsby says that giving the youth an opportunity to change the police department from within is all the incentive needed.

"The youth are the ones that make the change, we have to make that change," said Magsby.

When police reform in regards to chokeholds and the use of excessive force is discussed, it's often up to the individual officer to make these decisions. Magsby and Tunson both agree that chokeholds and excessive force were not teaching points included in police training, which takes at least six months. In this realm, it is believed policy changes will help but is defunding the police the best option?

Tunson doesn't think so. He calls into question who would be hurt by defunding of the police, not only the institution but the community itself. His solution is to reframe and restructure the department from the inside, utilizing internal affairs to keep officers accountable for their behaviors.

It is also still important for the community to continue to file complaints, its emphasized that real reform must be made in order for the community to be and feel safe, through advisory committees, oversight committees, or a change in leadership.

The community is the most important aspect when considering what policy reforms must take place. Establishing a clear line of open communication between BPD and the community might be key in establishing trust between the two.

According to NAACP President Patrick Jackson, the community, in this current political climate, should push for policy change until the change that is desired occurs. What's really needed is a step towards systemic change Jackson adds.

Policy changes can include things like advanced officer training protocols, an update to psychological examinations that are already administered as well as diversity training, to name a few.

It is agreed by Magsby and Tunson that the community must be more involved in checking up on complaints made against BPD as well as following up on things we see that are simply wrong.

At some point, the community must trust in order to work towards change.

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." - Martin Luther King.