State Investigation Leads to Reform for the Bakersfield Police Department

By: Alyssa Wilson

The Bakersfield Police Department in California is revising its policies after a four-year investigation found that it violated the constitutional rights of residents.  

Attorney General Rob Bonta announced the reform on Monday. “As Attorney General, I’m committed to strengthening trust between our communities and law enforcement. That is a critical part of public safety,” Bonta said. “Where there’s injustice, we must correct it. This agreement with the city and its police department will help make it happen.”  

RELATED: DOJ Launches Investigation Into Minneapolis’ Policing Policies 

The investigation conducted by the California Department of Justice is instructing the department to improve its practices, including giving officers body-worn cameras, volunteering to collect data under the Racial and Identity Profiling Act, and implementing an initiative to foster collaboration with the community.  

As part of an agreement with the DOJ, the City of Bakersfield and the police department will complete a set of actions overseen by an independent monitor meant to promote public safety and strengthen accountability.  

The investigation into the department began in December 2016 after complaints were made by individuals, media reports and community organizations. “After much deliberation, and upon my recommendation, the city decided to adopt this agreement; the decision came down to a choice between litigating the past or controlling our future, reassuring our community, and moving forward in a positive way,” Bakersfield Police Chief Greg Terry said. “The agreement is detailed, and in many instances, exceeds state law, reflecting improvements that the Police Department has already made or was already in the process of making on its own.”  

RELATED: Justice Department Launches Investigation Into Phoenix, City Police Department  

The DOJ, city and police department worked together to create a five-year plan with an extensive range of actions. It includes revising the use-of-force policies, modifying canine-related training, expanding and improving use-of-force reporting, ensuring stops and seizures comply with the law and developing a community engagement plan.  

If you or someone you know is struggling from trauma triggered by this story, resources are available here. 

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