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Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood 

The Kern County Sheriff’s Office has decided to shutter its gang unit, the department announced on Wednesday.

Sheriff Donny Youngblood said the decision stemmed from the fact the department only has three people in the unit and that they have had difficulty recruiting personnel given the department’s financial constraints.

“It’s unavoidable. It is what it is,” Youngblood said. “We’re doing the best we can with what we’ve got.”

The three deputies are already in the process of being reassigned to other units, he said.

Two of them will be transitioned to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Violent Crime Unit and the other will be transferred to the California Multi-Jurisdictional Methamphetamine Enforcement Team, Youngblood said.

Despite the closure of the unit, Youngblood said KCSO will still concentrate on gangs and will assign deputies to deal with those issues when the need arises.

“We’re not going to turn our backs on gang violence, but there will not be a formalized, dedicated gang unit,” Youngblood said.

There are more than 200 active gangs in Kern County, responsible for thousands of crimes every year, according to the KCSO website. The majority of the county’s homicides are connected to gang activity, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Prior to its closure, half of the positions in the gang unit were already vacant due to budget limitations. To fully staff the unit, Youngblood said it would take more than 13 deputies.

County Chief Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop acknowledged the closure in a statement on Wednesday. 

"The sheriff's decision to reassign three deputies to other units is his to make, and is unrelated to any action taken by the Board of Supervisors," he said. "After speaking with the Sheriff today, I've confirmed that this is a budget-neutral staffing change addressing other needs he has within his operations."  

Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer also responded to the announcement. 

“The gang unit of the Kern County Sheriff’s (Office) has played a valued role in the prosecution of gang-related crimes. It is unfortunate that limitations of law enforcement resources prevent this unit from remaining operational,” she said.

Kern Law Enforcement Association President Richard Anderson said the association is supportive of Youngblood's decision.

“I’m not happy about it, but I 100 percent support the sheriff’s decision,” he said. “I don’t always see eye-to-eye with him, but I know he’s done everything he can. We can’t go on pretending we’re not in a crisis.”

Anderson, who is a metro patrol sergeant for the Sheriff’s Office, said the department has already lost more than 30 deputies to other agencies offering better pay, and he knows of 10 people who are planning to leave the department within the next six months.

The Sheriff’s Office currently employs more than 500 people, Anderson said.

The county Board of Supervisors voted to increase entry-level sheriff's deputy pay by nearly 19 percent this past March in an attempt to stop deputies from leaving, bumping up pay from $45,000 to around $53,000 annually in minimum base salary.

However, that still is lower than other comparable agencies, including the Bakersfield Police Department, where an entry-level officer earns around $58,000 a year. Despite the board’s efforts, Anderson said the Sheriff’s Office still has difficulty recruiting and retaining employees.

“We’ve been losing more than we’re gaining every year,” he said. “We’re getting to the point where we have to start shutting units down. If this (closure) doesn’t shake things up, I don’t know what will.”

Youngblood acknowledged that the Sheriff’s Office’s other special units could be eliminated in the future if more action isn’t taken to reverse course.

“We’re getting smaller and smaller,” he said. “This is the beginning of more to come for our specialized units. If things continue the way they are, I don’t see it changing.”

Joseph Luiz can be reached at 395-7368 or by email at jluiz@bakersfield.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @JLuiz_TBC. 

(14) comments

Vavoom

fleeman's unit?... bad boy youngblood... bad move

BakoGuy805

Gotta load money elsewhere to pay off Fleeman’s lawyer.

Meeshka

What???? This city is deteriorating at an alarming rate. Like someone said above, it's on its way to becoming uninhabitable. I wonder if that's the goal? To let the city implode and the lucky ones jump ship? The only people left will be wealthy elites, homeless and desperately poor. Can a city survive on that? I'm saving up to leave asap. Oh and let's continue to tiptoe around the blatant in your face truth about the main source of the gangs. God forbid we offend anyone since that's more important than cleaning house and saving our city. Most of the city will look like a certain area I'm not allowed to mention but at least feelings won't be hurt.

Kathleen Ellis Faulkner

All we need to know is who, what, and why do we have gangs?

Meeshka

Shh we aren't allowed to talk about that.

JimmyDude

Can we have a hint?

JR

The real question is, why isn't there enough money to fund the Sheriff's Department? What is that money going to instead? If, as Sheriff Youngblood says, his department is shrinking and will continue to do so, who will be left to protect the communities? We can't let the police presence shrink while crime rises or Bakersfield will become so uninhabitable and undesirable place to live, it will eventually cease to exist. And it's already well on its way there.

Kate

I agree with Ken Witham 100%...Libraries are important for more reasons than I can mention but Ken gave excellent reasons!!

awol

The Board of Supervisors and by designation, the CAO's Office, ultimately control the pay/benefits of all County employees and the Sheriff's budget. Currently, many County employees, including those in public safety are among the lowest paid in the State by -any- comparison metric. When that is fixed, everything else will begin to fix itself as vacancies will eventually be filled. Of course, all departments serve vital roles, but when prioritized, public safety are more critical than others like it or not. It should be noted that the passing of the County sales tax measure would have avoided this current situation and any that follow if nothing else is done. At the end of the day, this is what happens when those in control repeat the mantras of "doing more with less" and "I know there's still fat to trim" year after budget year, while hoping the wheels don't fall off as they wait for bonds to be paid off which will free up some discretionary revenue a couple of years from now. Well, the Sheriff's gang unit is some of the fat that was trimmed.

When are they going to eliminate all the corrupt deputies?

awol

No worries... Looks as though all deputies are being eliminated by attrition, corrupt or not.

bakodon

Can someone please explain this to me....we have a BOS that is impotent! We have a half brained CAO....we continue to pick away at fire and safety when we need them the most. Why not have fire and safety do their budgets first (reasonable) and then if there is any money left, divide it up among the rest of the county agencies. In this day and age do we really a library, Hart Park or for that matter ANY county parks if we can't staff fire and safety! Enough is enough!

KenWitham

At one point in time, I shared your point-of-view on the library, but I don't think that way now. I now believe the library is lifeline to the impoverished. While hard to believe, not every family has access to the internet or even cell phones. Not every family can even afford a Kindle Fire. The library shouldn't be an afterthought. As for the other departments, they all serve their purpose and are needed in some capacity.

RefereeB

You have to be joking - don’t need a library or public parks? The sign of a vibrant community and democracy is literacy. Parks are vital to the well being of citizens. The biggest part of the County’s problem is fire fighters. These jobs should pay enough to have qualified applicants fill the role. When 1,000 people apply for 5 positions, it isn’t because they want to do public service - it’s because they pay too much and have too lucrative of a retirement package. The CAO should use Reagan’s approach to the air traffic controllers - fire them all and rehire at an appropriate pay scale. They have done this to themselves by promoting a system that includes overtime in retirement and is flatly an unsustainable burden on the taxpayer.

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