Sheriff Donny Youngblood, whose county is under investigation for civil rights violations, was caught on camera telling officers it is “better financially” to kill suspects, not wound them.
The video, released Monday by the Kern County Detention Officers Association, shows the Kern County Sheriff speaking to the union during an endorsement interview 12 years ago.
Youngblood compares the price tags of wounding and shooting a suspect in the video, noting that deputies have received more training due to rising costs.
“There’s a good reason for that: millions and millions of dollars,” Youngblood said, as first reported by in the video obtained by Bakersfield.com. “You know what happens if a guy makes a bad shooting on somebody — kills them, three million bucks and the family goes away.”
Speaking about inmates who are injured or killed in jail, Youngblood calls it a “totally different ballgame.”
“It’s no different than when a deputy shoots someone on the streets, which way do you think is better financially? To cripple them or kill them, for the county,” Youngblood asks.
“Kill them,” someone in the audience says.
“Absolutely,” Youngblood replies. “Because if we cripple them we get to take care of them for life, and that cost goes way up.”
The union is backing Youngblood’s opponent, Justin Fleeman, in the upcoming 2018 election — despite endorsing Youngblood after the original recording in 2006, according to the Los Angeles Times. The sheriff said that his county’s economy “has meant deputies have not had a pay raise in eight or nine years” and that their frustration resulted in the union releasing the video, the Los Angeles Times further reports.
Youngblood told Bakersfield.com that his comments — which he said were part of a discussion relating to the 2005 death of James Moore, who was beaten while in custody — were taken out of context. “I’ve never inferred that we should shoot to kill,” said Youngblood, acknowledging he should have chosen his words better. “Do I wish I would have said it different? I certainly do.” The 300-member union said in a Facebook post that the department desperately needs “positive changes for the betterment of all of Kern County citizens” as they and the two other unions swing rally behind opponent Justin Fleeman, a chief deputy who has questioned Youngblood’s use of resources and leadership.
The Kern County Sheriff’s Department is currently under investigation for “a pattern and practice of excessive force” by the California Attorney General, Bakersfield.com reported.
The Guardian profiled Kern County — both the sheriff’s department and the Bakersfield police department — after law enforcement killed 13 people in 2015, a higher per capita rate than any other county in the United States that year. With less than 900,000 residents at the time, officers killed more people that year than all five counties in New York City, where only nine people were killed at the hands of police.
Sheriff Youngblood has voiced strong opinions and called for “anti-sanctuary” policies in 2017. "I always say Kern is a county that ought to be in Arizona,” said Youngblood to the Los Angeles Times. Arizona has one of the highest rates of police officer killings in the country — 22 people have been killed by the police in 2018 alone, according to the Washington Post database. Okay then.
[Photo: Screenshot from Youtube]