Saturday, December 5, 2015


Yet another less than impressive story of the county and city I call home ...

The British news organization, The Guardian, is in the process of releasing a five-part series outlining the recent history of law enforcement in Kern County, California. According to the first part of the series - "The County: the story of America's deadliest police" - law enforcement throughout Kern County "have killed more people per capita than in any other American county in 2015." 

The story behind the death of Bakersfield Police Department (BPD) confidential informant, Jorge Ramirez, is especially noteworthy. Ramirez was shot and killed while he was actively working with the BPD as an informant. 

According the BPD Ramirez, who was unarmed, caused his own death because he was in the same vehicle as the person they were tracking, and (1) according to one officer, he was reaching for his waistband, (2) they weren't sure Ramirez was a reliable informant, and (3) Ramirez could have "moved his hands above his head" while the BPD was shooting at the suspect and the car he and Ramirez were riding in at the time.

Apart from the live interviews, flowing pictures, and the easy to follow prose The Guardian presents several interactive charts that lay out the numbers that drive part of their story.

In Part II of the series - "The County: where deputies dole out rough justice" - The Guardian takes a look at the practices and history of the Kern County Sheriff Office. 

After going through several stories that establish Kern County's "'law and order','lock them up' type of county" credentials The Guardian reports that Kern County's police state culture has had little, if any, positive effect in the region. 

According to The Guardian's report, Kern County's "violent crime rate in 2014 was 517 offences per 100,000 residents, compared with 390 in the whole of California." In addition Kern County ranks 7th when it comes to violent crime in the state, its homicide rate is 50% higher than the California average - which means only 5 of California's 58 counties have a higher homicide rate than Kern. 

The Guardian makes it clear that a contributing factor to these statistics is poverty, where per capita income in the county is 50% lower than the California average ($29,527). Still, it's also clear The Guardian is focused on highlighting what they see as a culture of law enforcement abuses (Part III, forthcoming) that's been historically tolerated and encouraged in Kern County. 

Stay tuned.

- Mark 

PART III: "Sexual Assault and the Price of Silence"

PART IV: "Partners in Crime"

* Click here to find The Guardians Twitter page on the entire series, The Counted.  

* Again, for those unfamiliar with Kern County, keep in mind that it was here that the United Farm Workers challenged growers, which brought then Senator Robert R. Kennedy to the region to square off with Kern County Sheriff Roy F. Galyen in 1966. The Kennedy-Galyen exchange in the clip below was over the Kern County Sheriff's policy of arresting lawful protesters who had not violated the law. It has become one of the iconic moments in America's civil rights history.

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