KERN COUNTY — A 12-year-old video showing a sheriff discussing the cost of inmate and suspect deaths has sparked controversy in the California county where he is facing re-election.
The video of Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood is reportedly from a 2006 interview he gave during his first campaign for sheriff (he was elected that same year). In the minute-long clip, Youngblood sits at a table with his audience out of view. He appears to be addressing deputy training and costs to the sheriff’s office when he poses a hypothetical situation about a “deputy that shoots someone in the streets.”
“Which way do you think is better financially, to cripple them or kill them…for the county?” he says. Someone answers, “Kill them?”
“Absolutely,” Youngblood responds. “Because if you cripple them you gotta take care of them for life, and that cost goes way up.”
Earlier in the clip he seems to say that the difference between killing and wounding a suspect and a person in custody is “millions and millions of dollars.”
“When a guy makes a bad shoot on somebody and kills them, three million bucks and the family goes away, after a long back and forth,” he says.
“When it happens in corrections, it’s a totally different ballgame.”
The 12-year-old video was released Monday by the Kern County Detention Officers Association. The KCDOA is supporting Youngblood’s opponent, Justin Fleeman, in the county’s 2018 election for sheriff.
“The Kern County Detention Officers Association believes that the Kern County Sheriff’s Office is in desperate need of positive changes for the betterment of all of Kern County citizens,” says KCDOA’s Facebook post Monday about the video. “Your Detentions Deputies know it is time to elect a new Sheriff who will bring a fresh approach and new ideas to tackle long standing issues facing department administration.”
In response to the controversy, Youngblood told CNN affiliate KBAK he didn’t meant to imply officers should shoot to kill and was merely shedding light on the cost of police violence.
“I stand by the intent of what I was trying to get across, that just because someone doesn’t die doesn’t mean we escape with less money or unharmed,” he said.
“Do I wish I would’ve said it differently? Absolutely. When you listen to the verbiage, it doesn’t sound good. But I think the people of this county know that’s not what I mean.”
CNN has reached out to the Kern County Sheriff’s office and the KCDOA for comment.
Fleeman, Youngblood’s opponent, told the Bakersfield Californian that he didn’t learn about the video until Monday.
On Facebook, many commenters expressed outrage about Youngblood’s statements while others said his comments were being taken out of context to score political points.
Kern County, which has a population of about 900,000 and is home to Bakersfield, is known for its unusually high rate of police violence. In 2015, an investigation by The Guardian found it had the highest number of police killings per capita of any US county. They also reported police had killed 79 people in the county from 2005 to 2015.