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August 23, 2021

State-Mandated Reforms Come in Response to Community Demands

BAKERSFIELD — Today, after a five-year review of the policies and practices of the Bakersfield Police Department — which the ACLU Foundation of Southern California and community organizations have charged repeatedly with excessive use of force and other constitutional violations — the state attorney general announced a stipulated judgment mandating reform of the department.  

In a statement, state Attorney General Rob Bonta said that “reforms are both needed and necessary.” He said that the Bakersfield Police Department’s “conduct resulted in the use of unreasonable force, as well as unreasonable stops, searches, arrests, and seizures. The investigation also identified other violations, including failure to exercise appropriate management and supervision; the use of unreasonable deadly force against individuals with a mental health disability and those undergoing a mental health crisis.”

But given the vital seriousness of these findings, the reforms announced by the attorney general — including training of police officers and the appointment of an independent monitor — fall far short of what is needed for true change.

Please attribute the following statement to ACLU SoCal Staff Attorney Stephanie Padilla:

“We are glad that the state Department of Justice recognizes there are systemic problems with the Bakersfield Police Department. But this stipulated judgment doesn't go nearly far enough. It will not, on its own, eliminate deeply harmful practices such as the use of canine force or discriminatory traffic stops for excessive force and intimidation, especially on Black and Brown community members.”

“It is our hope going forward that the City of Bakersfield is more attentive to the community's concerns and calls for change so that yet another multi-year civil right investigation of its police department is not again required in the future.”