Local Civil Rights Groups Call for Citizens Review Board in Light of David Sal Silva In-Custody Death

May 24, 2013
9:50 AM

Yesterday in Bakersfield a group of civil rights organizations, including the Dolores Huerta Foundation, NAACP, American GI Forum and the California Civil Rights Coalition, held a press conference calling for a new citizens review board to be formed in Kern County, in light of the recent in-custody death of David Sal Silva.


Here is what the Bakersfield Californian reported:

Members of the organizations, including the Dolores Huerta Foundation, NAACP, American GI Forum and California Civil Rights Coalition, said such a board would improve community safety and create more effective policing.

“We want to help the community restore their trust with local law enforcement,” Camila Chavez, executive director of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, said. “We intend to do that by creating an independent citizen oversight committee by researching other successful models that have been implemented in California.”

This press conference occurred hours before Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood held his own conference, where he shared an autopsy report of Silva’s death, which occurred on May 8 and has garnered national attention because of a chilling 911 call and several videos allegedly showing Kern County deputies and California Highway Patrol officers striking Silva with batons. The cause of death was ruled “accidental,” and according to the autopsy, Silva died from “hypertensive heart disease.” Youngblood had also said yesterday that the cause of death was “acute intoxication, chronic alcoholism, severe abdominal obseity, chronic hypertension and acute pulmonary caridovascular strain.” However, as the following screen grab from the actual report shows, those factors were listed as “other significant conditions” and not in any of the “cause” categories. You can read the full autopsy report here.


Youngblood did address the call for a citizens review board at his own press conference, when he said: “This case personifies exactly why a citizens review board is not a good idea because I as a sheriff deal with facts, law and policy. We don’t deal with emotion, but the public does.”

The Californian story also added more details about the group and why they are wanting to form a review panel:

The group calling for a citizens review panel, Kern Unity Coalition, said it was too soon to give concrete examples of what exactly it would like to see formed.

Duane Goff, commander of the Kern County chapter of the American GI Forum, said the group is talking to the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Office of Civil Rights to investigate the history of law enforcement force in Kern.

“If we have people in the community that don’t feel safe because of law enforcement reputation, that hurts all of us,” Goff said.

The group will be gathering information from different models being used across California, and hopes to create a model that is the best fit for Kern. Cities like Los Angeles and San Fransisco have created and implemented new training and policies for law enforcement, Chavez said.

The group said it also wants to make sure local law enforcement knows it is not saying every deputy or officer is the same.

“We know that many of those in law enforcement are honest, ethical, hard working people, but the problem is when they come into our communities, we don’t know which one they are, so we have to distrust all of them,” Goff said.