Bakersfield

Bakersfield City Council weighs options over state investigation into PD

Bakersfield City Council held a closed session meeting Wednesday to discuss potential lawsuits regarding the California Department of Justice Investigation into the city’s police department.

Despite a lengthy sit down, city officials had nothing to report, suggesting little progress in a long-standing probe.

The investigation dates back to 2016 when then-State Attorney General Kamala Harris launched the probe into the police department, as well as the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, for alleged civil rights violations. 

Community complaints and media reports claiming police officers used excessive force, as well as concerns about officer-involved shootings all factored into the state’s decision to investigate the law enforcement agencies. 

“Excessive use of force and police misconduct erode and undermine the public’s trust in our law enforcement agencies,” Harris said at the time. “These investigations will objectively, impartially, and thoroughly examine whether the Kern County Sheriff’s Office or the Bakersfield Police Department engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive force or other civil rights violations.” 

After the state filed a lawsuit against the sheriff’s office, the two sides reached a settlement last December. 

Per the agreement, the sheriff’s office is now required to report all use of force instances to a third party, hire more deputies and wear more body cameras, among other actions. 

The City Council previously met behind closed doors in March to discuss a potential lawsuit from the state. 

So far the state has yet to take legal action against the city like it did with the sheriff’s office, but the city’s closed session discussions signal that a similar settlement could be on the table if faced with a lawsuit. 

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.