On May 24, the Kern County Sheriff’s Office (KSCO), the Monitoring Team, and the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) held their first Bridge the Gap meeting in Lamont, a in-person community conversation to discuss how to implement and improve policing strategies.
Community members were invited to learn more about the Department of Justice and Stipulated Judgement and help strengthen the partnership between KSCO and the community.
During the meeting, the community was invited to ask KSCO, the Monitoring Team, and CAC questions about current policies and plans for future policies. They were also able to provide their own suggestions and express any concerns they were carrying.
These were some of the questions that were asked and answers provided for them:
Q: “We are here because we know there is a problem and I think they talked about this problem too fast, but like Octavio said, it is very important that we identify why these problems are happening. Not only that but we need to know what are the next steps. The question was asked that how are you going to solve the linguistic problem and there was no concrete answer. So my question is how are we going to see the results because we know that you guys are monitoring but what are you guys monitoring? Are you guys monitoring the policy, the number of arrests, the persons? I want to know specifically how that is going to be because you guys are asking us questions but we are not getting answers or telling us what are the next steps.”
A: “Thank you for the question. I want to clarify that us—the people who are monitoring—are not the people who have the answers. That is the job of the Kern County Sheriff Office and the Community Advisory Committee.”
Q: “I have two things I want to share. First, I want to say that some of us just found out about this meeting yesterday and we need more time for this. I want to say that next time we do this again, I hope we have more time to talk, share, and participate. The next thing is, I work with schools and families and the most important thing for me is the relationship between the sheriffs and the community. There are a lot of people who don’t have confidence that you guys are going to follow the laws and 10 years ago we had deputies that we really had confidence in and they got along with the community and now we don’t see that. There is a level of fear and brokenness and it’s time we reconstruct these relationships. Before we had officers who would patrol the schools and now we don’t see that.”
Q: “Hello my name is Yesenia Aguilar, I work for the state government and I live here in Lamont. Supervisor David Couch is the one who represents us because we don’t have a mayor like in the city of Arvin. All of the representatives of Supervisor Couch talk Spanish and they need to answer the phone because that is why they are getting paid for. I don’t like it when they put the blame on us and the community because we are not at fault. It is not our fault for what is happening here. Like the state says the blame is on those in higher positions. It is important to come here because sometimes we feel like our voice isn’t heard, but what matters is your vote. You are voting for these representatives so you need to call them and find them and ask them any questions you have. I am always calling them and asking hey have you done this, have you done that? My other question is that we are seeing that there is no support for the youth. I want to know what is happening to the community representatives. I remember back then the sheriff’s department had activities that they would do in the community to help and support the youth.”