Every day, the men and women of the Bakersfield Police Department hit the streets to keep our city safe, providing law enforcement services to nearly a half-million people. These officers handle theft, robbery, traffic collisions, murder, and everything in between. Mixed among the calls and reports are incidents of violence and conspiracy committed by members of criminal street gangs, some of whom are as dedicated to their life of criminality and disorder as we are to the law. Dealing with these criminals requires the expertise and dedication found in the Special Enforcement Unit (SEU).
The twenty two uniformed men and women of the Special Enforcement Unit (SEU) who work alongside patrol officers include two sergeants, two senior police officers, and thirteen police officers. Of those thirteen officers, two are assigned to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) task forces; three officers are assigned to Homeland Security Investigations Gang Violence Reduction Task Force; and two are assigned to Graffiti. SEU officers spend much of their time contacting and identifying known members of local gangs, conducting probation and parole searches, and developing informants who provide a window into the lives of the gangs. These lives are often filled with drug sales, extortion, burglary, and guns.
Bakersfield's street gangs have been responsible for over 1,000 shootings and over 180 murders since the Department began tracking them. The victims have included children, innocent bystanders, and police officers. Every year, the SEU arrests hundreds of gang members and seizes over a hundred firearms from them. California law provides for some well-deserved special enhancements and criminal charges in gang cases, and our Department pursues these special charges whenever possible.
Gang cases require a lot of special preparation and attention from start to finish. Working closely with the Kern County District Attorney's Gang Unit, SEU officers conduct extensive evaluations of every charged gang member and testify in court as to the defendant's criminal history and gang involvement. Most of these cases depend on proving not only that the person is a gang member, but also that the crime committed somehow furthered or benefited the gang. SEU officers frequently testify in murder and gang conspiracy cases.
Enforcement and gang suppression are not the only tools used by the SEU. As every police officer knows, even the most disadvantaged areas of our city have many good and decent residents; even the most entrenched gang members sometimes get tired of the life and want out. Through their critical role in the Bakersfield Safe Streets Partnership, SEU officers engage in outreach efforts that put us in contact with community members from the neighborhoods suffering the most from gang violence, and place gang members in touch with service providers that have mentored and trained many gang members out of their violent lifestyles.
The fast pace of activity and wide variety of the work in the SEU gives its officers deep experience in gang investigations, evidence handling, and community policing. Former SEU officers can be found throughout the Department at all levels, working in Investigations, Administration, and throughout Operations. The officers in the SEU are grateful for the opportunity to serve our city in this special assignment, and always look forward to putting the experience to good use in the future.
SEU Officers at Lowell Park (2016)
SEU Officers playing basketball with kids at Stella Hills Elementary (2017)