The California Department of Justice opened investigations into the Kern County Sheriff’s Office and the Bakersfield Police Department because of allegations of excessive force and other serious misconduct, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris' office said Thursday.
Officer-involved shootings and deaths of people while in custody were also reviewed and considered over the course of more than a year, the Attorney General's office said.
“Excessive use of force and police misconduct erode and undermine the public’s trust in our law enforcement agencies,” Harris said. “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. We look forward to working collaboratively with the Sheriff’s Office and the Police Department, as well as with the community, to address any civil rights violations or other issues that we may find during these investigations.”
The California DOJ will focus on allegations involving police practices and accountability, among other related issues, within both law enforcement agencies.
The decision to investigate the agencies was because of complaints by individuals and community organizations, as well as by media reports.
The DOJ Civil Rights Enforcement Section will conduct the investigations with the assistance of DOJ’s Division of Law Enforcement.
Pattern or practice investigations are civil, not criminal investigations.