ACLU Report Shows the BPD Continues to Target People of Color and Unarmed Individuals
BAKERSFIELD — A 2017 ACLU report on the use of excessive force by Kern County law enforcement — including deadly shootings, beatings, and canine attacks — showed that it targeted unarmed individuals, people of color, and people who are mentally ill so disproportionally that it was in violation of civil rights. The situation was so dire that the California Department of Justice (DOJ) was investigating the Bakersfield Police Department (BPD).
But four years later, an updated report by the ACLU of Southern California shows that little has changed at the BPD. The new report, “Unconstitutional Patterns & Practices in the Bakersfield Police Department,” documents continued patterns and practices of excessive force far beyond the vast majority of police departments.
“The Bakersfield Police Department has carried out discriminatory and harmful practices against the people of Bakersfield for far too long,” said ACLU SoCal Staff Attorney Stephanie Padilla. “It is long past time for the DOJ and the city to bring these abuses to an end."
Results of the state investigation are still pending, but use-of-force data accessed from the DOJ, plus other publicly available information, was used in compiling the updated report. Among the findings:
- BPD remains one of the deadliest police departments in the country, shooting unarmed individuals and people with mental illness with alarming frequency. And state DOJ statistics show that from 2018 to 2020, 83% of BPD shootings resulting in serious bodily injury or death to Black or Hispanic individuals.
- BPD continues to use canines to attack and seriously injure individuals at rates similar to when the state DOJ began its investigation. In 2020, for example, 89% of police canine attacks targeted Black and Hispanic individuals.
- BPD continues to use charges, such as “resisting arrest,” as a justification for racial profiling as well as excessive force.
- BPD’s use-of-force policy fails to comply with the law.
In addition, the report found that the BPD conducts racially discriminatory traffic stops that are unconstitutional.
The report concludes that “The City Council, mayor, and leadership of the Bakersfield Police Department share collective responsibility to ensure that these unlawful practices and harms to the community end now, so that the lives, dignity, and civil rights of Bakersfield community members are safeguarded.”