By the numbers
June 7, 2020 8:12 PM   Subscribe

Police Are Killing Fewer People In Big Cities, But More In Suburban And Rural America

mentioned on the green, but new to the blue. tl;dr: IFF there's a will, there's a way
posted by queen anne's remorse (12 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

This probably can't account for all or even a significant portion of the suburban/rural increase, but how many cops get fired for violence in the big city and then hop over to the nearest town for their new job?
posted by brook horse at 9:15 PM on June 7, 2020 [24 favorites]

Also, in the last seven years, haven’t the cities gotten average-richer and other regions therefore relatively poorer? And all else equal, I expect US institutions to be worse for poorer people.
posted by clew at 10:07 PM on June 7, 2020 [6 favorites]

Without knowing what's causing the trends in the OP, it's hard to know what's going on. For all anybody knows, there's a nationwide performance target these fuckers think they have to meet, and they can get away with it more easily in the suburbs.

Whatever. If the police are going to be brought to heel, it begins in the cities. Minneapolis have just announced plans to disband the MPD (Guardian). Loads of interesting links in the article, including this roundup of resources from community group MPD150, which may have turned up in another thread already. Amazing if it works, and not impossible given the current political climate. Meanwhile, Stuart Schrader says ‘De-militarizing’ police will be harder than taking away their tanks, as if anyone needed reminding. All this and not a word about gun control, the mighty elephant in the room.

Hang in there, America. We can all do better than this.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 4:26 AM on June 8, 2020 [6 favorites]

I mean, we can speculate about causes for this all day.

Off the top of my head:

1. Demographic trends in the past five years have favored wealthier, older white people moving out of their suburban/rural homes and into smaller properties in newly-gentrified urban centers. It might not be enough people to make a demographic blip, but it sure has meant that a lot of urban neighborhoods near me have gotten shockingly white shockingly fast. The flip side to that is that lots of folks are getting priced out of neighborhoods in cities where they've lived for 50+ years, and are being forced to relocate to smaller cities and suburbs where rents are lower. Where poor people of color go, so too go police shootings.
2. Most public places in large cities are now under surveillance 24/7, and that footage isn't always owned by the police. In 2013, that was not the case. Urban cops are beginning to fear the panopticon, as they know that a jury seeing video of them killing an unarmed black man will result in a conviction much more frequently than just hearing ballistics reports.
3. Broadly, American cities tend to be more liberal than American suburbs, and that divide has been growing steadily for the last ten years. Liberal policies tend to favor deescalation and nonlethal weapons training, and in extremely liberal places like NYC/Boston/Philadelphia you sometimes end up with elected officials who are actually leftist and will hold departments accountable for extrajudicial killings. That is a rare bird indeed in suburban/rural areas that tend to vote more conservatively.

Bottom line, we won't know anything for certain until we have better, disaggregated data on police violence, rather than Balkanized reporting that differs by department and has to be compiled by nonprofits who crunch numbers by hand. That won't happen without law enforcement reform at the federal level, which is to say it won't happen unless we vote McConnell and company out in November.
posted by Mayor West at 5:58 AM on June 8, 2020 [4 favorites]

In the city, backup is seconds away, and there is less time spent driving to and from a situation. So the pressure to get in, get on with it, get it over with and get out, without backup, is far less.

This is why the LAPD was the first agency to get a reputation for brutality.
posted by ocschwar at 6:01 AM on June 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

I don't think I follow your point, oschwar -- if pressures to brutalize are less in the city, why would LA, one of the largest of cities, be first to get a reputation for brutality?

(I'm having trouble phrasing this question in a way that doesn't seem like I'm playing semantic gotcha, so I just want to add that I genuinely am not following your point and would like to understand it better.)
posted by jacquilynne at 6:24 AM on June 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

Well, the police killings follow the poor black population, and in recent years a lot of them have been pushed out to the suburbs and rural areas as the inner cities are turned back into playgrounds for mostly young professional white elites.
posted by Naberius at 6:30 AM on June 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

I don't think I follow your point, oschwar -- if pressures to brutalize are less in the city, why would LA, one of the largest of cities, be first to get a reputation for brutality?

Because LA is the most sprawled out of our cities, and so police response times and concomitant pressures are just like the suburbs.
posted by ocschwar at 7:08 AM on June 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Just a quick heads up, Balkanization is a not-unproblematic term for regional divisions, might be worth a different word choice next time
posted by loup (staff) at 10:16 AM on June 8, 2020 [3 favorites]

I was told there would be a handbasket, but it turns out to be the express elevator.
posted by corvikate at 11:17 AM on June 8, 2020

Also worth mentioning: the spread of opioid addiction. People who don't have it (and many who do) sometimes view addicts with disdain and disgust.

And this: the militarization of police forces in suburban areas, at a discount rate courtesy of the armed forces' surplus program. I have been duly impressed and dismayed with the equipment displayed by all these police forces over the past two weeks.
posted by corvikate at 11:28 AM on June 8, 2020 [3 favorites]

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