Every week we hear examples that people say show law enforcement can sometimes be heavy handed and use more force than is necessary to effect an arrest. Citizens who believe Sheriff’s Deputies and Police Officers use too much force continue to be critical of all agencies, and the cases that make it to court are sometimes used as proof that, on one hand, there is too much force used by law enforcement, and on the other hand, that such overuse of force is often applied to minorities.

But what do the officers themselves say? What do their supervisors and their trainers say? What does the law say? And is it different here in Kern County than in areas that have made national news about suspects dying at the hands of police? Suspects being unarmed but shot and killed or beat to death by groups of officers?

 To get those answers, I spoke to high ranking officers at the Kern County Sheriff’s Department. Deputy Chief Erik Levig said every city or county is different, but the training, including the psychiatric evaluations, a potential officer has to go through before being hired is similar, if not identical. He said it’s a process outlined by laws that have recently been updated and overhauled.

(KCSO-1) “835A… …related laws.” 1:48 – 2:09 = :21

Lt. Brandon Rutledge is directly in charge of training. He says Kern County’s ‘use of force’ training is at least 50% longer than generally required.

(KCSO-2)  “You go through…   …use of force.”  2:19 – 2:31 = :12

So the use of force, how much and under what circumstances, is a matter of law. But how is that law applied, especially when you see several officers trying to handcuff one subject?

This is where it becomes the legal and moral obligation of other officers to step in and either quietly, or dramatically, remove the over-acting officer from the scene, even if he is a senior, being addressed by a junior.

(KCSO-3)  “The sheriff’s office…   …from occurring.”  12:44-13:05 =:21

(KCSO-4)  “It kinda comes… …from society.” 13:29 – 13:48 = :19

It could be understood that Law enforcement officers are human. They can make mistakes either based on their own weaknesses or biases, or perhaps older officers who have not been able to progress with newer times and policies. 

But some people think they could also be reacting to a series of actions that start with the person they are stopping or arresting.

In tomorrow’s edition, we will turn to one of Kern County’s minority communities and ask the question, “Do people antagonize police and initiate a confrontation? And if they do, how and why?

For News First, I’m Tony Lee