A new study conducted by the American Civil Liberties Union has uncovered widespread abuse and excessive force against suspects by Bakersfield police and the Kern County Sheriff’s Department, according to the civil rights group. The accusations were unveiled in a report Wednesday detailing police wrongdoing, including the use of department canines to harm or intimidate suspects.
The ACLU’s report is separate from two investigations of the departments currently being carried out by the California Attorney General’s Office. Those probes were ordered by former Attorney General Kamala Harris following complaints about a number of police shootings involving unarmed individuals.
Since 2013, 19 people have been shot by police in Bakersfield, the ACLU found. A quarter of them were unarmed.
“Our findings show that both KCSO and BPD have engaged in patterns and practices that violate civil rights,” the report reads. “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 entire report here.