Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood: Dogged by his past statements – it’s “better financially” to kill suspects than wound them.
The sheriff of a California county with an outsized number of police shootings once said that it was “better financially” to kill suspects than wound them.
Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood was looking for an endorsement in 2006 when he posed the question, “When a deputy shoots somebody, which way is better financially? To cripple them or kill them for the county?”“Kill them?” someone off camera asks before Youngblood answers “Absolutely.”
“Because if you cripple them you have to take care of them for life and that cost goes way up,” he said.
As it stands, Police in Kern County, California, have killed more people per capita than in any other American county in the past decade, earning for themselves the sobriquet of being the country’s most lethal law enforcement officers
Family and friends mourn James de La Rosa an unarmed victim of a four man police shooting team in 2014.
The damning video was released Monday by the Kern County Detention Officers Association, one of three officers’ unions that had endorsed Youngblood’s upcoming election opponent and chief deputy Justin Fleeman.
Officers said that the county force, once labelled “America’s deadliest police,” was “in desperate need of positive changes.”
Seventy-eight years after Kern County’s leaders banned the book ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ from their schools and libraries, in which the author John Steinbeck’ portrayed their policemen as “divested of sympathy or human decency or understanding”, according to Kern County law enforcement, the man supervising a police force noted for it’s abetted killings.
Three years ago the British paper, The Guardian, profiled the county after 13 people were killed by police in 2015. The county had less than 900,000 residents at the time, but more fatal shootings than New York, which had nine the same year.
The expose was triggered by stories of police cover up of ‘bad shoots’ in the central California county. In one memorable case, Aaron Stringer, a senior Bakersfield police officer once lauded after saving a colleague in peril, but later tarnished by his arrest for a hit-and-run while driving under the influence of prescription drugs, reached under the bloodied white sheet and tickled the toes of one victim of unjustified police shooting, James De La Rosa.
When, a junior officer reported the repugnant act to commanders, Stringer jerked the head to one side and joked about rigor mortis.
“I love playing with dead bodies,” said Stringer.
It was only one in a catalog of mindless acts by a police officer in this rugged territory, where law enforcement officers routinely kill more people per capita than any other county nationwide, according to a 2015 Guardian investigation.
A 2015 Guardian report on homicide per capita across counties, nationwide
For the time period surveyed by The Guardian, law enforcement officers in Kern County, which has a population of just under 875,000, killed more people than the New York Police Dept killed across the five counties of New York City, with almost 10 times as many residents and a police force about 23 times larger.
One senior Bakersfield police officer, by himself, had been involved in at least four deadly shootings in less than two years. Another officer separately shot dead three people within two months in 2010. Other law enforcement officers in Kern County had been involved in deadly beatings of unarmed men, sex crimes against women and reckless car crashes resulting in criminal convictions.
“They have some fine officers here, but unfortunately they have some bullies and thugs who often run the show,” former Kern County public defender Henry Mosier said.
Victim: James of De La Rosa, shot by cops , unarmed, with his hands held high
A couple who witnessed the 22-year-old De La Rosa’s death at the hands of law enforcement officers from the country’s deadliest cop killer county, said they watched officers shoot De La Rosa after he exited his car and “threw up his hands”, keeping them outstretched. It appeared he was saying “What’s up?” or even “I’m here, come arrest me,” one of the witnesses said.
In contrast the officers claimed otherwise, “They said they shot him because was he was reaching for his waistband,” said De La Rosa’s brother Joe. “Why would an individual reach for his waistband if there is no weapon there?” asked the victim’s sister, Serena. “That makes no sense.”
In what was a familiar pattern, the officers involved in the shooting of James De La Rosa were quickly cleared of wrongdoing by an inquiry carried out by their own commanders, as has long been standard for fatal shootings by the Bakersfield police department and the Kern County sheriff’s office, the two biggest law enforcement agencies in the county.
Donny Youngblood is routinely accused of participating in the cover up of bad policing
Last year Youngblood asked the county Board of Supervisors to adopt a resolution that would declare Kern a “law and order” county and not a “sanctuary” county.
Of the identified 54 fatal shootings in the time frame of a decade, by Bakersfield police and Kern County sheriff’s deputies. At least 49 of the 54 were publicly ruled justified by panels of senior officers from the same department as the officers who fired.
Monday’s highly damaging video, reportedly taken during an endorsement consideration interview, also saw Youngblood turn the loss of life at the hands of the police into a matter of dollars and cents.
“When a guy makes a bad shoot on somebody and kills them, $3 million dollars and the family goes away,” he said, comparing it to a jailhouse beating where many officers are present.
Youngblood then went on to compare the costs of killing someone versus wounding.
The sheriff told Bakersfield.com after the video release that his words were taken out of context and that he “never inferred that we should shoot to kill.”
He added that he wishes he had used different words.