BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (CN) – Claims of excessive force and deaths in custody have spurred separate California Department of Justice investigations into potential civil rights violations by police in Kern County and Bakersfield.
California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced the investigations Thursday, which will be conducted by her office’s civil rights enforcement section with help from the office’s division of law enforcement.
“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,” Harris said in a statement.
She said the investigations are civil, rather than criminal, in nature.
Harris said complaints by individuals and community organizations – and news reports – spurred the investigations into possible use of excessive force and other wrongdoings by the Kern County Sheriff’s Office and the Bakersfield Police Department.
“Excessive use of force and police misconduct erode and undermine the public’s trust in our law enforcement agencies,” Harris said.
Harris’ office has spent more than a year reviewing publicly available data regarding officer-involved shootings and deaths that occur while in custody.
During the investigations, department attorneys and investigators will weigh all relevant information from law enforcement agencies, police officers, local officials, prosecutors, public defenders, criminal defense attorneys, community members and others, Harris said.
Bakersfield Police Sergeant Gary Carruesco was not immediately available for comment by telephone Thursday and did not respond to an email request for comment Thursday afternoon.
The Kern County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately return a call seeking comment Thursday, and Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood did not respond to an email request for comment Thursday afternoon.