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Bakersfield Residents Seek Police Reforms at City Council Meeting

South Kern Sol, Dean Welliver

A month after a teenage girl says she was beaten by police officers and attacked by their police dog, community members expressed their outrage to the Bakersfield City Council.

At a Bakersfield City Council meeting on July 19, Tatyana Hargrove’s family and members of the Bakersfield NAACP chapter discussed concerns about police brutality and offered suggestions to increase safety when interacting with police.

Hargrove claims that Bakersfield Police Officers Christopher Moore and G. Vasquez used excessive physical force when they stopped her on Father’s Day, mistaking her for a 30-year- old, 6 foot tall, bald, black male with a goatee. She is a 19-year-old black female with a full head of hair, standing 5 feet 2 inches.

In a video published on the NAACP’s Facebook page, Hargrove says the officers grabbed her neck, punched her, threw her to the ground and released a K-9 on her before she was told why she was being stopped. The officers found no weapons on Hargrove, but did arrest her for five misdemeanor charges, including assault on a police officer and resisting arrest.

The incident has sparked a discussion about how to improve safety in Bakersfield. Suggestions from community members included investing in body cameras for police officers, a community oversight committee for the Bakersfield Police Department, and comprehensive training on mental health for police officers.

“I am here to ask for body cameras and a community oversight committee. We’re not just asking, we are demanding, because how many more cases like Tatyana have to happen for this to be taken seriously?” said Paola Hinojosa, a youth activist with the Dolores Huerta Foundation as she addressed the council.

“Tatyana needs to be heard, Tatyana needs to be taken seriously because our youth cannot be going through situations like this.”

Patrick Jackson, president of the Bakersfield NAACP chapter, which published the video in which Hargrove recounted the incident, said body cameras would help reduce incidents like the one Hargrove experienced.

“When you have cameras on your house, robbers tend to deter themselves to not rob a home that has cameras because they are most likely to get caught and get prosecuted,” said Jackson. “Same thing with the body cameras. They will deter them from doing these heinous acts and also [deter] citizens from making false complaints.”

“It is very important that we inform our children of what is dangerous out there. It’s not just kidnappers, it’s our law enforcement, unfortunately, so we have to keep our children informed of what their rights are for their protection and to make sure our children come home safely,” said

Nadine Escalante, a volunteer with the Bakersfield chapter of NAACP. “It’s time for transparency within our law enforcement. We can no longer justify this kind of behavior. We need an oversight committee, we need outsiders and law enforcement from the outside, not from Kern County, from other counties and other cities overseeing our law enforcement to make sure they are within department policy and procedures.”

Community activist Donte Heath explained that he wants the Bakersfield Police Department to change so that it works for the community.

“We are the public and they are the public servants. They are there to serve us. The feeling I get from the police is when you look at me, you’re protecting people from me, you’re not protecting me,” he said.

“We are fearful of the servants that took a pledge to protect us. You see my skin, and you see who I am, but you’re not here to protect me. You’re here to protect people from people who is like me, and that’s not fair,” added Heath.

The Bakersfield Police Department has launched an internal investigation into the incident.

Dean Welliver is the LGBTQ Equality Organizer for the Dolores Huerta Foundation.

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