This summer saw protests and justified outrage at the death of George Floyd. This is part of a continuing and troubling history of failures in policing systems and racial violence in our country. In the midst of this anger and, in turn, local and national calls for action and reform within police departments, on June 10, Bakersfield City Councilmember Andrae Gonzalez issued a referral for the Bakersfield Police Department to form a community panel that would work together over a six-month period to review and evaluate regional and national police policy and training recommendations.

In June, BPD initiated collaboration with the Kegley Institute of Ethics to form our Core Working Group with community stakeholders and, since July 1, we have worked to transform this initial referral into a concrete and impactful plan of action. Specifically, and in the interests of public safety, accountability and professional policing for all communities, the Bakersfield Police Department-Community Collaborative (BPD-CC) was created in order to solicit and formalize community-sourced recommendations for policing reform, policing capacity, and building trust and greater partnership between BPD and the Bakersfield Community.

As noted in The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing (2015), “trust between law enforcement agencies and the people they protect and serve is essential in a democracy. The public confers legitimacy only on those whom they believe are acting in procedurally just ways.” BPD is committed to building trust with our community.

But achieving and improving this trust will take dedicated work and collective effort from both BPD and the greater Bakersfield Community. In order to work toward this end, the BPD-CC has adopted four key areas of focus for research and recommendations:

  • Building trust and legitimacy: Making recommendations for expansion of current efforts and adding additional outreach efforts to build and maintain trust between BPD and the Bakersfield Community
  • Communications and community outreach: Developing recommendations for BPD to increase transparency, information-sharing, and engagement with community
  • Officer training and education: Making recommendations for BPD to develop new or revised training and education offerings for officers with specific attention to issues of prejudice, implicit bias, use of force, de-escalation, and community policing
  • Use of force policy and oversight: Reviewing current BPD policies and practices relating to use of force, de-escalation, and use of non-lethal weapons and making evidence-based recommendations to BPD in these policy and practice areas.

The BPD-CC is composed of Bakersfield community leaders from diverse professions, identities and areas of expertise. BPD-CC members are already playing active roles in subcommittees focusing on each of the key areas (noted above). These community members are attending information-sharing sessions with BPD leadership and assisting in research that will lead to eventual evidence-based recommendations for Chief Greg Terry and, in turn, the Bakersfield City Council and City Manager Christian Clegg.

This process is, at its core, a community-led initiative to work with BPD to both consider and implement important areas of reform and, also, to increase current efforts that are already bearing fruit. In order to bring additional community voices into this process, the BPD-CC will host several open “listening sessions” in the fall to hear community members’ experiences, insights and suggestions in regard to BPD and community policing.

In addition, the BPD-CC can be contacted at any time with questions, suggestions or requests for additional information at the following email address: yourvoice@bakersfieldpd.us.

Michael D. Burroughs is the director of the Kegley Institute of Ethics at Cal State Bakersfield. NaTesha “T” Johnson is the CEO and founder of Upside Productions. Mark Martinez is the co-director of CSUB’s Center for Social Justice. Traco Matthews is the chief program officer at Community Action Partnership of Kern. Greg Terry is the Bakersfield Police Department chief.