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Kern County Sheriff's Office Suspends Chokeholds, Considers Community Advisory Board

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The Kern County Library hosted a conversation between the Kern County Sheriff's Office and African American leaders, with Arleana Waller moderating the meeting.

The Kern County Library hosted a conversation between the Sheriff’s Office and local African American leaders Wednesday afternoon. 

During the livestream meeting, a series of panelists asked Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood about different incidents and practices in the department. 

Youngblood resisted the idea of a community board reviewing use-of-force incidents, so Arleana Waller, co-organizer of the call, asked him, “Do you have an advisory committee as it relates to African Americans in place that can advise you? 

“I do not, but I’m not adverse to an advisory committee and I think that could be a very positive thing for us all, because we don’t know everything,” replied Youngblood. He said the office could do more to educate the public about it’s practices and regulations. 

Youngblood also admitted it’s impossible for him to know what it’s like to be black, and said he would root out racism in his department.

“I know it’s happened, I’ve seen it myself on TV,” said Youngblood. “We saw it with George Floyd. We saw someone that was a bully.”

Earlier in the day, Youngblood announced that for now, sheriff’s deputies won’t use carotid control holds, a type of chokehold. 

An online campaign called “8 Can’t Wait” has been widely circulated in the past few weeks, suggesting eight practices law enforcement can enact to reduce use of force incidents, including eliminating choke and strangleholds.

Undersheriff Doug Jauch, also on the call, said the 8 Can’t Wait website incorrectly states that the sheriff’s department does not apply any of the practices. Jauch said the department now implements six of them with the suspension of carotid holds. The only two not in use by deputies are a ban on shooting at moving vehicles and a warning before shooting. Jauch said deputies are highly encouraged to give warning before shooting and to not fire at moving vehicles, but added that some situations require severe action.

In 2015, an investigation from The Guardian called Kern County law enforcement America’s deadliest police, including both the sheriff’s office and Bakersfield police.

Laura Tsutsui was a reporter and producer for Valley Public Radio. She joined the station in 2017 as a news intern, and later worked as a production assistant and weekend host. Laura covered local issues ranging from politics to housing, and produced the weekly news program Valley Edition. She left the station in November 2020.
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