When police informant Jorge Ramirez was killed during a sting operation by the very people he was trying to help, authorities didn't waste time lying about his involvement. Ramirez's family never believed they were being told the whole truth by the Bakersfield Police Department in Bakersfield, Calif., where Ramirez lived and subsequently died in September 2013. Hulu's Killing County charts the journey of the Ramirez family to get justice for Jorge.
Jorge Ramirez's death was one of a string of violent incidents that led to an investigation of the Kern County Sheriff's department. During that period, the Kern County Sheriff's Department was led by Sheriff Donny Youngblood.
Where is Sheriff Donny Youngblood now? Here's what we know.
Where is Sheriff Donny Youngblood now?
As of the time of this writing, Donny Youngblood is still sheriff of Kern County. According to his bio on the Kern County Sheriff Office's website, he was elected in 2006 and somehow keeps getting re-elected despite the fact that his county has come under intense scrutiny for its police-related crimes.
In December 2015, after a "series of special reports, which is based on dozens of interviews, multiple hours spent with officers on patrol, and a review of thousands of documents obtained via public records requests and courthouse searches," The Guardian came to the conclusion that Kern County cops were some of the "country's deadliest."
Was it ego or apathy that led Sheriff Youngblood to be interviewed by the Los Angeles Times in the spring of 2022? Regardless, he was certainly honest in his answers. During his tenure, "taxpayers have paid out more than $20 million in settlements for wrongful deaths, jailhouse strip searches, and other assorted abuses involving Kern County deputies." And yet his job remains secure.
What's it like to violently fail up? In his last race, Youngblood ran unopposed, which is vaguely terrifying.
The changes in Kern County that Youngblood points out first have less to do with crime rates and more to do with political leanings. "We [Kern County] used to be 70 percent conservative Republican. Today, I think it’s probably 56 percent."
Per the Los Angeles Times, Kern County is actually "36 percent registered Republican — and Democrats are just two percentage points behind." And apparently police are now writing more tickets and shooting less people, he assured the outlet.
It also wasn't that long ago, 2018 to be exact, that Youngblood was caught on video telling an audience that "it was an 'absolutely' better scenario to kill a suspect instead of cripple them in order to save taxpayers millions of dollars in settlement." When pressed about that, Youngblood only said he could have "worded that better."
It doesn't feel as if Sheriff Youngblood is evolving at all. Rather, like most old dogs, he's forced into learning new tricks. Let's hope one of them is fixing Kern County.
The California Justice Department looked into Kern County.
The Guardian also reported that, in August 2021, "California’s justice department ha[d] announced a court-enforced reform settlement with the Bakersfield police department," due largely in part to The Guardian's investigation in 2015.
The state's justice department came to the conclusion that "Bakersfield police failed to uniformly and adequately enforce the law, in part because of defective or inadequate policies, practices, and procedures." They also pointed out the staggering use of force by members of their department.
This decision, known as a consent-decree, would force the BPD to "revise its use-of-force guidance to focus its officers on de-escalation and proportionality; strengthen its use-of-force training for officers; strengthen investigations into officers’ use of force; and modify the use and training of police dogs."
Perhaps this is the change Sheriff Donny Youngblood is so fearful of. Well, you know what they say, if you can't stand the heat, stop running for office.