AG’s Office Opens Investigation into Excessive Force and Misconduct against Kern County Law Enforcement

(From press release) Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today opened separate civil pattern or practice investigations into the Kern County Sheriff’s Office and the Bakersfield Police Department.  California Department of Justice (DOJ) attorneys and investigators will focus on allegations involving police practices and accountability, among other related issues, within both the Kern County Sheriff’s Office and the Bakersfield Police Department.

The Attorney General’s decision to investigate the two law enforcement agencies was informed by complaints by individuals and community organizations, as well as by media reports, which allege use of excessive force and other serious misconduct.

Publically available data sources concerning officer-involved shootings and deaths in custody were also reviewed and considered over the course of more than a year.

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.

During the course of the investigations, DOJ attorneys and investigators will consider all relevant information from all affected parties, including the investigated law enforcement agencies, individual officers, local officials, prosecutors, public defenders and other criminal defense attorneys, community members, and other stakeholders.

“Excessive use of force and police misconduct erode and undermine the public’s trust in our law enforcement agencies,” said Attorney General Harris. “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 Attorney General’s office welcomes the views of anyone with relevant information concerning either agency.  Such individuals may contact the Civil Rights Enforcement Section by emailing,

Under the California Constitution (article V, section 13) and California Civil Code section 52.3, the Attorney General has the legal authority to conduct civil investigations into whether any law enforcement agency has engaged in a pattern or practice of violating state or federal law, including the state and federal constitutions.

The Attorney General has not reached any conclusions about specific complaints or allegations against the Kern County Sheriff’s Office or the Bakersfield Police Department.  The DOJ expects the investigations to be completed within a reasonable timeframe that accounts for the comprehensive scope and nature of each investigation.  The DOJ has previously investigated other local law enforcement agencies, including the Maywood Police Department and the Riverside Police Department.


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  1. Jaroslaw Waszczuk

    It sounds similar to the Edward Humes’ book story  ” Mean Justice ”   Very good book .

    “Besieged by murder, rape, and the most vile conspiracies, the all-American town of Bakersfield, California, found its saviors in a band of bold and savvy prosecutors who stepped in to create one of the toughest anti-crime communities in the nation. There was only one problem: many of those who were arrested, tried, and imprisoned were innocent citizens. In a work as taut and exciting as a suspense novel, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist Edward Humes embarks on a chilling journey to the dark side of the justice system. He reveals the powerful true story of retired high-school principal Pat Dunn’s battle to prove his innocence. And how Dunn, prosecuted for killing his wife to inherit her millions, was the victim of a case tainted by hidden witnesses, concealed evidence, and behind-the-scenes lobbying by powerful politicians. Even more disturbing, Humes demonstrates how the mean justice dispensed in Bakersfield is part of a growing national trend in which innocence has become the unintended casualty of today’s war on crime. American cities are enjoying their lowest crime rates in decades. But at what price? Mean Justice provides answers both compelling and frightening.”

    1. Claire Benoit

      Sounds like a worthwhile read. My general sentiment toward law enforcement is very different than it used to be. I was blown away when my attorney was instructed by the Davis PD for me “just to call them to have the missing persons report removed from my passports” because at the time; they were wrongful as I awaited my skype trial. After one live conversation with an officer there, I was left to leave messages on their voicemail. All my messages were then given to Tiffany Susz, who then (mis)used them as a means to build her absurd case against me for child abduction in the ex-parte she filed on my ex’s behalf. An ex parte my attorney was not properly notified of, and therefore was not able to attend.

      After everything fell into place, it was obvious my attorney and I had been setup.

      The only advantage on this was it gave me credible evidence to show outside agencies why I cannot rely on the local law enforcement to protect my children and I from the risk of harm. Clearly in some cases, the local police department subordinates its charge with protecting the community to its own utilization as a tool for misused powers.

      Terribly disappointing.

  2. Tia Will

    Good morning Claire,

    why I cannot rely on the local law enforcement to protect my children and I from the risk of harm.”

    Family law, at least in California, is one of the places where we seem least adept at the protection of children. This is not new.

    Fifteen years ago , my ex was able to successfully manipulate the system to holding the “no fault” and 50/50 parental rights to prevent optimal health care for our children. He managed to block their receiving needed mental health services of which he did not approve. Since I made more financially than he did ( both of us doctors) he managed to get away with not contributing to their monetary support at all while still having equal say with regard to their well being. I discussed with my attorney the large amount of evidence I had that he was emotionally negligent and abusive and was told that unless I had something as egregious as proof that he was doing drugs in the presence of the children ( I didn’t) then the emotional harm being done simply would not be considered at all in determination of custody. Both of my children have had to fight with severe mental health issues for years as a consequence. Doing better now thanks to their resilience, not to the care they were unable to receive.

    No one protected the Talamontes 5 year old who was drowned by her mother in 2014 within hours of a police check.

    No one protected baby Justice who died from the effects of exposure when taken by his mother into the slough  in 2015 although many including mandated reporters knew of the dangerous situation that the infant had been discharged into.

    I do not mean to fault any particular individual in any of the cases cited. Only that we have a history of extremely poor  protection and care of the children of our community. To their credit, the county supervisors have made a major effort to understand and address these issues at their recent series of meetings on this issue. My involvement however, has led me to believe that we have a long, long way to go to protect the most vulnerable members of our community.

    My best to you and your family this holiday season. May you all be safe, happy and at peace.

  3. Claire Benoit

    Thank you Tia, I wish the same for you and your family as well. It is awfully upsetting that public agencies can exercise so much of their power into our personal lives when they are known to get it wrong in so many cases and suffer no real consequences for their errors.

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