The American Civil Liberties Union called for major reforms in the Bakersfield Police Department and the Kern County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday, releasing a scathing report that detailed repeated allegations of excessive force and the misuse of police dogs to injure and intimidate suspects.
Both departments were already the subject of a civil rights investigation by the California attorney general’s office, but the ACLU said Thursday that its study shows officers and deputies have been involved in “a disturbing pattern of shootings, beatings and canine attacks” in recent years, many of which involved unarmed suspects.
“We urge the office of the attorney general to take all action within its power to correct the patterns and practices we’ve identified,” Adrienna Wong, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Southern California, said in a statement. “The people of Kern County have the right to live free from police excessive force.”
Both agencies have been involved in a disproportionately higher number of shootings compared with other California law enforcement agencies that police populations of similar size and rates of crime, according to the study. Bakersfield police have shot and killed 19 people since 2013, according to the study. Authors of the report also found that since 2009, one-quarter of all people shot by police department officers were unarmed.