A community-led oversight committee of the Kern County Sheriff’s Office is in the midst a mass exodus, with four members tendering their resignations to Sheriff Donny Youngblood late last week.
The panel, originally formed as part of a stipulated judgment with California’s Department of Justice, has become the subject of a bureaucratic tug-of-war between top members and social justice activists.
Breaking down the news: In a resignation letter written by Council Chair Arleana Waller, 4 members of the KSCO Community Advisory Council resigned due to the council’s original mission being “subverted by politics and bureaucracy.” Youngblood responded with comments sharing that the committee became unproductive and hopes for a brighter future for the council.
- Former Council Member Waller was a proud founder of the CAC and after trying to fight to keep the mission alive, she could no longer continue her service. Tiara King also resigned Thursday sharing that the meetings lost the manner of professionalism and is hoping to pursue a line of work assisting the community.
- Youngblood responded to these resignations implying that he expected members to resign after they no longer were able to get anything done due to continuous interjections in recent meetings, particularly from two groups – the American Civil Liberties Union and the Dolores Huerta Foundation.
- Youngblood doubled down on the progress reached in the past two years in improving policies and daily practice of the department.
What we’re hearing: Youngblood ensured his determination to both building and growing relationships in the community. While Dolores Huerta Foundation remains mum, a policy advocate for the ACLU shared her view of the breakdown on the oversight body to the Bakersfield Californian.
- “We are certainly not giving up. If we have to start over, we will start over. But we want to build a relationship with the community. That’s our job. We’ve done that our entire careers, and we haven’t always done a great job at it,” said Youngblood. “I think the communication between the community and sheriff personnel is extremely important, and we’ve really come a long way in that communication aspect.”
- ACLU policy advocate Rosa Lopez told the Californian: “It’s unfortunate that the members of the leadership felt they had to exit. I think it’s good to discuss disagreements and ensure we get on the same page and we refocus, because at the end of the day, this space came together to respond to a need from the community.”