For many years, residents of Kern County have expressed concerns about excessive force and serious misconduct by the officers of the Kern County Sheriff’s Office (“KCSO”) and Bakersfield Police Department (“BPD”). In response to community concerns and to public reports about a number of police killings of unarmed individuals in Kern County, the ACLU of California (“ACLU CA”) conducted a two-year investigation into excessive force by KCSO and BPD. This paper summarizes the findings of that investigation.

Our findings show that both KCSO and BPD have engaged in patterns and practices that violate civil rights. KCSO and BPD officers have engaged in patterns of excessive force—including shooting and beating to death unarmed individuals and deploying canines to attack and injure— as well as a practice of filing intimidating or retaliatory criminal charges against individuals they subject to excessive force.

Deficient oversight and accountability structures have allowed law enforcement misconduct to go unchecked and in some cases escalate. Changes to KCSO and BPD policies, training, and institutional structures are therefore required to ensure that officers carry out their duties lawfully, ethically, and safely — consistent with the Constitution and respect for the sanctity of life.

Read the full report for more.

If you've experienced excessive force or other violations of your rights by Bakersfield Police Department officers or Kern County Sheriff's Office deputies, please let us know.