SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today announced a major settlement aimed at reforming a wide range of practices at the Kern County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO). The agreement comes after an extensive investigation by the California Department of Justice (DOJ) and constructive action by KCSO to begin the reform process that will benefit all Kern County residents. The proposed stipulated judgment lodged with the court today works to resolve DOJ's concerns, as alleged in its complaint. As a result of the agreement, the County of Kern and KCSO will engage in a comprehensive set of corrective actions — to be overseen by an independent monitor — to promote public safety, increase transparency and accountability, and enhance KCSO’s relationship with the community by ensuring all individuals are treated with dignity and respect.
“We’ve entered a new era for policing in America. Accountability and transparency are drivers of today’s reform and many in law enforcement in California are accepting the challenge,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Today’s settlement with the Sheriff’s Office is a critical step in helping rebuild trust and partnership in Kern County. It won’t happen overnight, and we’ll all have to stay on task. But, these are the steps our communities want to see us launch for safer neighborhoods. We look forward to working with Sheriff Youngblood and Kern County’s civic leaders to make today’s settlement a success.”
“I want to thank the Attorney General for his partnership with Kern County and especially thank my Sheriff for the spirit of cooperation and transparency that has guided this process," said Kern County Supervisor Chair Leticia Perez. "Our public safety partners and community members all desire to live in safe and healthy neighborhoods. My hope is that we all join this endeavor by building the future together, as one community.”
After a comprehensive investigation launched in December of 2016, the Attorney General’s Office worked with KCSO to address allegations of unlawful policing practices within the county, including with regards to the use of unreasonable force, unreasonable stops, searches, and seizures, and failure to exercise appropriate management and supervision of deputies both on patrol and in the county’s jails. The investigation also identified other violations, including failing to adequately maintain a meaningful program for the receipt and investigation of civilian complaints; failing to provide meaningful access to those with limited English proficiency; and failing to have a comprehensive community policing program. In conducting the investigation, the Attorney General's Office undertook on-the-ground investigative work, reviewed thousands of documents with the assistance of subject-matter experts, and directly engaged with community members and organizations.
To address these concerns and the investigation’s findings, DOJ and KCSO worked cooperatively to establish a five-year plan that provides for an extensive range of corrective actions, including to:
Attorney General Becerra is committed to improving public safety and the criminal justice system by advocating for reforms across the state and the nation, and working with local authorities to implement new policies. Earlier this month, the Attorney General argued against the imposition of unaffordable court user fees on indigent criminal defendants in California. Earlier this year, the Attorney General issued a report on the Sacramento Police Department’s policies and practices aimed at building public trust and ensuring safe, effective, and procedurally fair policing. He launched a review of the Vallejo Police Department that will result in the development of a comprehensive policing plan in an effort to modernize and reform the police department's policies and practices, and increase public trust. Attorney General Becerra also called for a wide range of statewide police reforms, encouraging leaders across the state to actively work toward achieving lasting, forward-thinking, and comprehensive reform. Last year, he secured an agreement with the Stockton Unified School District and its police department to address system-wide violations of the civil and constitutional rights of African American and Latino students, and students with disabilities. In 2018, as a result of the Trump Administration abandoning its role, the Attorney General stepped in at the request of the City of San Francisco and the San Francisco Police Department to provide independent oversight of the police department’s reform efforts.