okamoto

Latashira Hudspeth, right, shouts during a protest in front of Bakersfield Police Department headquarters on Monday. Hudspeth is the cousin of Christopher Okamoto, who was killed by a BPD officer exactly a year ago on Monday. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a police use of force bill on the one-year anniversary of Okamoto's death.

Families of Bakersfield residents who have been killed by local law enforcement are applauding a new bill signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday that strengthens the standards for use of deadly force by officers.

But those same families say more work must be done before law enforcement officers can be held completely accountable when their actions harm others.

“Families are fed up, families are tired. We want change and we’re coming after change,” said Jesse Rodriguez, whose cousin, James De La Rosa, was shot in 2014 by an officer of the Bakersfield Police Department after a high-speed chase. “We’re tired of playing the victim.”

Rodriguez, who is part of a local chapter of the STOP Coalition, was in the room in Sacramento when Newsom signed the bill into law. A number of other local families traveled to the state capital to celebrate the new law.

“It was monumental, it was historic,” Rodriguez said of the bill, which he described as a first step. “At the end of the day, my cousin is gone, and it’s not going to bring him back, but at the same time, it might save lives.”

Written by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, after 22-year-old Stephon Clark was shot by the Sacramento Police Department, AB-392 will encourage law enforcement to increasingly rely on de-escalation techniques, like verbal persuasion and other crisis intervention methods, rather than use of force.

Previously, the law had authorized officers to use force under “objectively reasonable” circumstances. Now, officers can use force only when “necessary.”

However, language in the bill was watered down after some law enforcement groups said AB-392 would threaten the way police did their jobs.

The bill, signed into law by Newsom, represents a compromise between law enforcement and civil rights groups.

In fact, BPD’s policies will not be altered much after the change.

“This law reinforces the current use of force standards and practices of the Bakersfield Police department,” said Bakersfield Police Chief Lyle Martin, noting the bill brought the state law in line with federal standards.

BPD Sgt. Nathan McCauley said BPD’s use of force policy has already been governed by these standards, which the department uses to investigate use of force by officers.

For one Bakersfield family in particular, the passage of AB-392 was bittersweet.

“I have so many emotions in my head right now,” said Tametria Nash, mother of Christopher Okamoto, who was shot by BPD officers exactly a year ago on Monday. “It’s still very painful for all of us.”

Okamoto died after he answered the door of his home at around 11:30 p.m. bearing a pellet gun. His family says Okamoto did not know police officers were knocking at the time, and he believed he was being robbed.

BPD found the shooting to be within department policy.

Nash, along with other friends and relatives of Okamoto, held a protest outside BPD headquarters in downtown Bakersfield on Monday, demanding accountability for the 21-year-old’s shooting.

“I just want some change within the police department,” said Jessica Okamoto, Chris’ stepmother. “We can’t get it for Chris, but we want it for other people so they don’t have to suffer like we have.”

She said she hoped police shootings would be reviewed by an independent panel instead of by the department itself.

Nearly all of the local activists who played a part in AB-392 passing hope to continue their efforts on future bills.

“Only time will tell if the bill is going to take,” Rodriguez said. “It’s going to be interesting and it’s going to be a challenge.”

A 2017 study released by the American Civil Liberties Union of California reported the Bakersfield Police Department and the Kern County Sheriff’s Office engaged in “a disturbing pattern of shootings, beatings and canine attacks by police and sheriff’s deputies, beyond what was called for in numerous law enforcement situations, especially when dealing with unarmed individuals,” according to the ACLU.

AB-392 will go into effect Jan. 1, 2020.

You can reach Sam Morgen at 661-395-7415. You may also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC. Maureen Strode can be reached at 661-395-7491. Follow her on Twitter: @maureenstrode.

(13) comments

Ciscojav

In reference to "Bodysnatchers" comment;



"Perhaps you should hit the pavement and warn your future “collateral damage” to obey the laws and the commands when cops tell them to stop and show their hands. The fact you use the term collateral damage to describe people killed by cops is sickening."



It's not "sickening" that a United States citizen with full constitutional rights can be judged, trailed & executed in the streets of America ?



Also I think you express what can be best described as an illogical statement or one filled with great irony when you state "you should... warn your future collateral damage" but then state "The fact you use the term collateral damage...is sickening".



It's not OK for me to acknowledge that some police homicide victims might be accepted as "collateral damage" in the name of Law & Order or for the Public Safety but it's OK for you to say that I should "warn your future collateral damage" ?



In the United States there are far too many justified "death sentence" of people of color by the State. Understand that there are other alternatives to the use of deadly force that are practice in other First World Countries;



From an online article from Council of Foreign Affairs "Toronto Shows What Better Police Training Looks Like" dated 4-25-18;



"When Constable Ken Lam confronted Alek Minassian, suspected of driving through dozens of pedestrians on Yonge Street in Toronto on April 23, he had his gun drawn and sirens blaring. According to the New York Times, the constable successfully arrested Minassian without firing a shot. The constable turned off his siren so he could communicate with the suspect and, through body language, showed he was not in a rush and that he was not afraid, eventually holstering his own firearm. When Minassian claimed to have a gun in his pocket, the constable replied, “I don’t care.” He made it clear to the suspect that he would not be a party to suicide-by-cop. Shortly thereafter, Minassian gave himself up and Lam handcuffed him. "



But if you feel this is impractical in our Society, then what does it tell us as about Our Society ?

Bodysnatcher

What about our society? You think a story, a snapshot in time from Toronto is everything cops should be? You know what’s really sad? The example you provide from Toronto happens hundreds of times daily in this country, but you never hear about those stories do you? “If it bleeds, it leads” is our current media’s mantra, so it’s no wonder those stories don’t make the headlines. Yet, you and others like you, look at a snapshot in time and you become judge, jury and executioner of cops trying to do the best they can. If their best isn’t good enough for you, then I suggest you pin on a badge and strap on a gun and show us all how it should be done.

Ciscojav

James De La Roda, Jorge Ramirez and Francisco Serna who were all LATINO victims of homicide by the the BPD and all were unarmed. All three families sued and obtain lawsuits settlements brought against the Bakersfield Police Department.



In TBC 5/09/19 article: "

33 deaths in 10 years: Newly released documents detail a decade of force by the Bakersfield Police Department"; it states:

" The BPD has an average rate of 1.6 officer-involved shootings per 100,000, compared to the Los Angeles Police Department's record of 1 per 100,000, according to statistics posted on LAPD's website"



Also the article states;



"BY THE NUMBERS



A decade of officer-involved shootings in Bakersfield



58 incidents over 10 years

68 suspects

33 fatalities

35 incidents involving suspects armed with firearms

4 incidents involving suspects armed with knives

8 incidents involving suspects in vehicles

10 unarmed suspects (four fake guns; four cases in which officers believed suspect had a gun; two unarmed)

(Note: In one incident, the findings were not clear.)"



So are all of you who are being so critical of this new accountability law saying that James De La Roda, Jorge Ramirez and Francisco Serna who were all LATINO victims of homicide by the the BPD and who were all unarmed are just collateral damage for all you to feel safe?

Bodysnatcher

Their race had nothing to do with their deaths even if you want it to be true, it’s not. Go race bate somewhere else and let the cops do their jobs. First, a word of warning for you would be justice warrior: that bill doesn’t change a thing. Perhaps you should hit the pavement and warn your future “collateral damage” to obey the laws and the commands when cops tell them to stop and show their hands. The fact you use the term collateral damage to describe people killed by cops is sickening.

ISpy

Blaming others when suffering the consequences of our own behaviors is a plague on our nation.

BanditIvy

All the Thugs in California just got an erection.

Meeshka

This is insanity. These people are out of touch with reality. Their friends or family were dangerous criminals who put themselves in these positions. People with maturity and sanity are just going to keep fleeing this state. It will implode. And these victims will still blame someone else instead of taking responsibility.

Abby

You nailed it on the head. It’s like the whole point is to cripple California

BakoGuy805

It’s really hard to get behind these victims that protest the police when their family member had a hand in their own death. Responding officers don’t have time to ask what caliber is that gun in your hand. 100% natural selection and knee jerk reaction from a jerk Governor.

Bodysnatcher

Exactly. These families point their finger at cops when their loved ones were culpable in their own deaths. It’s easy for the Democrats to blame cops when their constituents refuse to obey laws and follow commands of officers. Not all situations are this cut and dry, but for the majority of these cases it is. The Democratic Party has become the party of lawlessness and anti-law enforcement. This state is becoming a sanctuary state for all criminals, not just illegal border crossers.

RefereeB

Just saying, Conservatives are tired of the lack of accountability too. Law enforcement shouldn’t be afraid of an independent review if they favor full transparency.

RICHARDFITZWELL

You can’t have people outside of the line of work judging those inside the line of work. In most cases, other agencies investigate the shootings. The “same” or “own” agency does however determine if a policy violation occurred.

Abby

Bodysnatcher you nailed it!

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