OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced that the California Department of Justice (DOJ) has entered into a stipulated judgment with the City of Bakersfield and the Bakersfield Police Department (BPD), regarding BPD's policies and practices. The stipulated judgment follows a comprehensive investigation by DOJ and constructive action by BPD to improve its practices, including outfitting officers with body-worn cameras, volunteering to collect data early under the Racial and Identity Profiling Act, and implementing a community collaboration initiative. The stipulated judgment announced today resolves DOJ’s allegations regarding BPD’s policies and practices as outlined in the complaint. As part of the agreement, the City of Bakersfield and BPD will engage in a comprehensive set of actions — to be overseen by an independent monitor — to promote public safety, strengthen oversight and accountability systems, continue to increase support for officers, and protect the statutory and constitutional rights of the people of Bakersfield.
“As Attorney General, I’m committed to strengthening trust between our communities and law enforcement. That is a critical part of public safety,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “Where there’s injustice, we must correct it. This agreement with the city and its police department will help make that happen. The findings of our investigation demonstrate how critical it is that we act. These reforms are both needed and necessary. For Californians who are hurting, trust will not come back overnight — and we cannot afford to be complacent. We must continue to engage and stay on task. Justice demands it. But, together, I’m confident that we can build a brighter future for all of our communities. I look forward to the work ahead.”
“After much deliberation, and upon my recommendation, the City decided to adopt this agreement; the decision came down to a choice between litigating the past or controlling our future, reassuring our community, and moving forward in a positive way,” said Bakersfield Police Chief Greg Terry. “The agreement is detailed, and in many instances, exceeds state law, reflecting improvements that the Police Department has already made or was already in the process of making on its own. We appreciate that, in the Agreement, the Department of Justice explicitly acknowledges the Police Department’s progress. The men and women of the Bakersfield Police Department will work diligently to honor this Agreement with professionalism, commitment, and integrity. We will hold ourselves accountable and be a strong partner, consistent with our mission and responsibility to the City Council and residents that we serve.”
In December 2016, DOJ began a civil investigation to determine whether BPD had engaged in a pattern or practice of violating state or federal law. The investigation was informed by complaints made by individuals and community organizations, as well as by media reports, which alleged the use of excessive force and other serious misconduct. After a comprehensive investigation, DOJ concluded that BPD failed to uniformly and adequately enforce the law, leading to a pattern or practice of conduct that deprives residents of constitutional protections. Specifically, DOJ alleges in its complaint that BPD’s conduct resulted in the use of unreasonable force, as well as unreasonable stops, searches, arrests, and seizures. The investigation also identified other violations, including failure to exercise appropriate management and supervision; the use of unreasonable deadly force against individuals with a mental health disability and those undergoing a mental health crisis; failure to provide meaningful access to police services to individuals with limited English proficiency; failure to provide equal employment opportunities; failure to adequately maintain a meaningful program to address civilian complaints; and the lack of a comprehensive community policing program.
To address these concerns and the investigation’s findings, DOJ, BPD, and the City of Bakersfield worked cooperatively to establish a five-year plan that provides for an extensive range of actions, including to: