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.”