Last month, al­most 200 people gathered on a street in Bakersfield, Cali­for­nia, to protest the po­lice killing of James De La Rosa, who was not car­ry­ing a weapon when tased and shot by four po­lice of­ficers. Cops shoot­ing a man dead didn’t sur­prise loc­als. Sev­er­al months ago, I re­por­ted that law en­force­ment in Kern County, where Bakersfield is loc­ated, kill more people per cap­ita than any­where else in Cali­for­nia, cit­ing an ACLU ana­lys­is of data col­lec­ted over six years end­ing in 2014.

But it turns out that there is much more to this story.

While at­tempt­ing to track every po­lice killing in the United States dur­ing 2015, journ­al­ists at The Guard­i­an dis­covered that cops in Kern County aren’t just the dead­li­est force in the state re­l­at­ive to the pop­u­la­tion, they are the dead­li­est in the na­tion. “In all, 13 people have been killed so far this year by law-en­force­ment of­ficers in Kern County, which has a pop­u­la­tion of just un­der 875,000,” the news­pa­per has just re­por­ted. “Dur­ing the same peri­od, nine people were killed by the NYPD across the five counties of New York City, where al­most 10 times as many people live and about 23 times as many sworn law-en­force­ment of­ficers patrol.”

This is in part be­cause Bakersfield and oth­er spots in Kern County are ex­tremely high-crime areas, af­flic­ted by gang vi­ol­ence, epi­dem­ic poverty, and drug ad­dic­tion: “The city’s murder rate is 75 per­cent high­er than the na­tion­al av­er­age and its rob­bery rate is 79 per­cent high­er. Bakersfield’s burg­lary rate is more than twice that of the U.S. av­er­age and its rate of mo­tor vehicle theft is more than three times as high. In 2014 an as­sault or rob­bery in­volving a fire­arm oc­curred at a rate of just un­der once a day.”

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