On Tuesday, Dec. 22, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced that the Dept. of Justice and the Kern County Sheriff’s Office had reached an agreement, after a 4-year investigation and collaborative process, that will reform law enforcement practices in the southern Central Valley county. And according to a key member of the Teri Black & Co, LLC, team, the agreement can serve as an example to state Justice Departments and Attorneys General across the country of what they could be doing to advance the quality of policing.
In his announcement of the settlement, (video below), Becerra acknowledged Joe Brann and his team of experts. Joe is a retired law enforcement chief and the founder and CEO of Joseph Brann & Associates (JBA), a subsidiary consulting firm of TB&Co., dedicated to improving accountability and performance in police departments. See more about Joe. He has been working with the DOJ team since 2016, when the AG’s Office opened an investigation as a result of community complaints and other issues. He is currently also working on a similar process with the Bakersfield Police Department.
The links below contain details on the reasons for the investigation and the agreement, but, generally, the five-year plan of corrective actions requires the Sheriff’s Office to, among other things:
- Review and revise use-of-force policies and principles, including strengthening reporting, requiring supervisors to investigate all reportable uses of force, improving training, and analyzing data;
- Modify canine-related policies and training;
- Require strict adherence to policies regarding investigatory stops or detentions, including that they are only allowed when there is reasonable suspicion of a crime and deputies must get supervisory approval before searching a home;
- Provide all dispatchers and their supervisors with crisis intervention training;
- Ensure that all members of the community have access to police services, regardless of their ability to speak, read, write or understand English; and
- Broaden active community engagement efforts, including but not limited to a survey every two years and a clear definition of what constitutes a civilian complaint, including online video posts that depict apparent misconduct.
“This agreement process was collaborative between the DOJ staff and the Kern County Sheriff’s Office personnel, and the resulting agreement is positive, important and timely” Brann says. “I give credit to both the people from the DOJ and the Sheriff’s Office,” he says. “Both teams stepped back and listened, and over time, developed trust and gained credibility with each other.”
He adds that these type of processes have been a long time coming, following the enactment of the 1994 Crime Act, when the USDOJ began undertaking investigations of patterns and practices of wrongdoing by law enforcement. It wasn’t until 1998, he says, that California AG Bill Lockyer ordered an investigation of the shooting death of Tyisha Miller in the city of Riverside. Since then, California has continued to take on a number of investigations, and other states have followed suit.
“The goal is to drive the professionals in the law enforcement industry to do better,” Brann says, “and the public can and should expect to see more of this type of engagement. Law enforcement agencies must be open to assistance, and be willing to listen, learn, engage and commit to organizational improvement.”