ACLU says violence at Kern County police departments violated rights

After Guardian investigation, ACLU determines law enforcement in Kern County used excessive force-out and engaged in patterns and practises that contravene civil rights

Two law enforcement agencies in Kern County, California, be considered to be the deadliest police departments in America by a Guardian investigation, have systematically deprived citizens of their constitutional rights due to frequent excessive force-out, according to a two-year investigation by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU of Southern California published a range of disturbing findings on Thursday in a report commissioned after a five-part Guardian series exposed the Bakersfield police department( BPD) and the Kern County sheriff’s office( KCSO) killed people at a higher rate than any other agencies in 2015. The series uncovered a culture of violence, secrecy and corruption in the county’s two largest police departments and led to ongoing civil rights investigations into the two departments announced by the California us attorney general last year.

” Our findings show that both KCSO and BPD have engaged in patterns and practises that violate civil rights ,” wrote ACLU California lawyers Adrienna Wong and Peter Bibring in a letter to the state attorney general Xavier Becerra.” KCSO and BPD officers have engaged in patterns of excessive force-out- including shooting and beating to death unarmed individuals and deploying canines to attack and injure- as well as business practices of filing intimidating or retaliatory criminal charges against people they subject to excessive force.

” Deficient oversight and accountability structures have allowed law enforcement misconduct to go unchecked and in some cases escalate .”

A spokeswoman for the California department of justice said the civil rights investigations into the two agencies were ongoing but would not give details on when they would conclude. The ACLU of Southern California, who delivered the report to Becerra on Thursday, advised the attorney general to” demand that KCSO and BPD correct their patterns and practices of abuse” or force-out government departments into reform through tribunal action.

Officers from the two agencies have shot and killed 29 people since 2013 in a county of simply 882,000 people. The ACLU found that Latino residents were disproportionately represented in the death toll, which featured a significant number of people who were unarmed at the time they were killed.

In addition, the rights group found that the departments had engaged routine overuse of force in other scenarios, pointing to five deaths between 2011 and 2013 after Kern County deputies had used police puppies, often on unarmed citizens. The report also found that at least 12 people had been killed by BPD and KCSO officers during beatings or after Taser deployments since 2009.

The report calls for a moratorium on the use of police puppies and an overhaul of officer training and use of force guidelines at both departments.

ACLU examiners also found statistical evidence that officers in Kern County have attempted to suppress allegations of excessive of force by pressing criminal charges against individuals who may have been assaulted by police officers.

In a sample of 2016 data the ACLU found that over half of the defying apprehend charges filed by the department also involved use of force by Bakersfield officers. In two cases where individuals were charged with assaulting a police animal, court records demonstrated the accused had been bitten by police puppies and were attempting to defend themselves.

In the past three years Kern county deputies attempted defying arrest charges in 273 cases without attempting a charge for any other offense, research reports received.

” The magnitude to which these charges are being filed indicates they’re being used intentionally and strategically to have the effect of constructing it is difficult to bring a civil rights claim ,” Wong said in an interview.

The ACLU’s data corroborates accusations reported by the Guardian in individual cases.

The researchers also noted the latter are forced to rely on samples of data, rather than a complete set, due to” prohibitively high fees” charged by Kern County’s superior court to review records.

The ACLU called on Becerra’s office to conduct” a detailed examination of tribunal filings”, which it believes will” reveal more information about the agencies’ practice of improperly employing criminal charges “.

The Kern County sheriff’s office and the Bakersfield police department did not respond to multiple requests for commentary.

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