The Story Of The Deadliest Police Force In The U.S.

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Above: Family and friends gather at the location where James de La Rosa was killed in Bakersfield for the one-year anniversary of his death. Four police officers shot the unarmed man in 2014. From the Guardian.

NOTE: The Guardian’s “The Counted “tracks killings by police in the United States. It is an incredible public service that fills a gaping whole in the work of the Department of Justice and FBI which does not track killings by police. The DOJ and FBI are set to begin to do so but reports of how they will do so seem inadequate. Let’s hope they can learn from The Guardian.

The article excerpted below comes out of The Counted. It focuses in on Kern County, California where they have the highest per capita rate of killings by police. We will only excerpt a small portion of this article and do not include any of the video tape from the original. This is the first in a series of articles. We recommend you read it to understand how police can get away with murder. -KZ

Police in Kern County, California, have killed more people per capita than in any other American county in 2015. The Guardian examines how, with little oversight, officers here became the country’s most lethal

Part one of a five-part series from The Counted

Words by  and  in Bakersfield, California. Video and photography by . Design and graphics by the 

Seventy-five years after Kern County’s leaders banned The Grapes of Wrath from their schools and libraries, complaining that John Steinbeck’s new book portrayed their policemen as “divested of sympathy or human decency or understanding”, officer Aaron Stringer placed his hands on the body of James De La Rosa without permission.

De La Rosa had just been shot dead by police officers in Bakersfield, the biggest city in this central California county, after crashing his car when they tried to pull him over. He was unarmed. Now the 22-year-old oilfield worker lay on a gurney in the successor to the coroner’s office where Tom Joad’s granma awaited a pauper’s funeral in the 1939 novel.

Stringer, a senior Bakersfield officer whose plaudits for once saving a colleague in peril had been overshadowed by his arrest for a hit-and-run while driving under the influence of prescription drugs, reached under the bloodied white sheet and tickled De La Rosa’s toes. Then, a junior officer reported to commanders, he jerked the head to one side and joked about rigor mortis.

“I love playing with dead bodies,” said Stringer.

It was only the most remarkable act in recent times by a police officer in this rugged territory, where law enforcement officers have this year killed more people relative to the population than in any other American county recorded by The Counted, a Guardian investigation into the use of deadly force by police across the US in 2015.

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. 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.

The deaths span from January to the early hours of last Sunday morning, when a man accused of firing at officers during a foot chase in downtown Bakersfield was shot and killed. One senior Bakersfield police officer has been involved in at least four deadly shootings in less than two years. Another officer separately shot dead three people within two months in 2010. Other law enforcement officers in Kern County have meanwhile been involved in deadly beatings of unarmed men, sex crimes against women and reckless car crashes resulting in criminal convictions.

“They have some fine officers here, but unfortunately they have some bullies and thugs who often run the show,” Henry Mosier, who worked for the county as a public defender for a decade before his recent retirement, said in an interview.

This 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, will shed light on how the county’s law enforcement officers became the country’s deadliest, beginning today with fatal shootings.

This 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, will shed light on how the county’s law enforcement officers became the country’s deadliest, beginning today with fatal shootings.

CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE.