A community panel hired by the City of Bakersfield to develop a series of recommendations for improving the Bakersfield Police Department released its report to the public on Friday.
The Bakersfield Police Department’s Community Collective was formed following the nationwide protest movement following the death of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police in May 2020 to restore trust between the public and the police, as well as to review the application of the department’s policies of violence.
After a six-month evaluation, the panel released its 20 recommendations, including improved mental health crisis training, the appointment of a diversity officer, and the establishment of a formal independent review board for citizens.
Bakersfield Police Department Community Recommendations for Cooperation
“We believe that any organization can benefit from internal reflection and review of its practices and policies in line with its stated values,” the panel wrote in its report. “In view of the enormous responsibility of the police officers, the role of the police officers as officials and the often high level of commitment of the police work in our community, this test is all the more necessary and important.”
In particular, the report does not address the BPD budget and whether it should be cut. However, the panelists encouraged the city council and BPD leadership to discuss the allocation of funds with the community, “given the significant percentage of city funding that BPD receives annually”.
The panel consisted of Michael Burroughs, Director of the Kegley Institute of Ethics at Cal State Bakersfield, NaTesha Johnson, Owner of Upside Productions Management, Mark Martinez, Co-Director of the CSUB Center for Social Justice, and Traco Matthews, Chief Program Officer, Community Action Partnership from Kern.
Bakersfield City Council received the report in early March and is expected to hear a presentation from the panel in the near future.
Panelists worked with BPD to research their recommendations and met weekly with Chief Greg Terry to discuss the initiative. Listening sessions were also held with members of the community and BPD officials in preparation of the report.
“Some of the recommendations contained in this report can be implemented without major changes,” noted the panelists in the report. “Others require substantial and long-term commitment from BPD and our community as well.”
The collaboration said it was determined to work with BPD to create an accountability plan that sets out a 12-month timeline for a formal response from the department. The report notes that many in the community have expressed a lack of confidence that BPD will follow with the recommendations.
“It is important to address these concerns directly and demonstrate a willingness, informed, new ideas to accept and implement in BPD,” the report said.
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